Natural Areas

Victoria Woods

Victoria Woods is an old-growth hardwood forest comprised of sugar maple, white ash, black cherry and beech. This, like Wild Goose Woods, is an old growth forest because it was never clear cut. When you visit, you may notice that there are big trees, but no huge ones that you might expect when you think of old-growth forests. Because the ground is damp or wet in this area, Victoria Woods was not suitable for agriculture and so it was not cleared. These wet soils allow trees to get much of their moisture from near the surface and so they often don't have really deep roots. When a tree becomes large and sticks out of the canopy a bit more than its neighbours, wind storms may blow it over because its root system is shallow.

You can see evidence of this in the woods because the ground isn't flat. There are many small mounds and pits - the mounds are where the roots have decomposed and the pits are where the root system was pulled out of the ground when the tree fell over. These small changes in topography allow a wide variety of woodland plants to grow here. Spring is an especially nice time to visit Victoria Woods to see many of these spring ephemeral plants blooming. These include jack-in-the pulpit, false solomon's seal, wild ginger and red trilliums. An absolutely spectacular display of white trilliums can be found here, too. A 2-km trail system meanders through this woods.

Wild Goose Woods

wild goose woods

For 1.5 km, trails and boardwalks go through these wet woods. The part of Wild Goose Woods near the Information Kiosk is an interesting section of this forest. In the late summer, fall and early winter, this area can be fairly dry, but in the late winter and spring, it is completely underwater. April and May is a great time to check out some micro-inhabitants of Wild Goose Woods by searching the flooded area from the boardwalk. If you search carefully through the leaf litter under the water, you may find tiny crustaceans called fairy shrimp as well as red water mites, flatworms and snails. The well-camouflaged caddisfly larva are here, too, carrying the tube of sticks that they have glued together for a moveable shelter. This part of Wild Goose Woods was once a White elm forest and some of the stumps are still present from the large trees that were wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease in the late1960's. When the large elms died, the small Freeman's maples (a hybrid of red and silver maples) that covered the forest floor got their chance and grew to the present forest around the boardwalk.

Because of the diverse habitats in Wild Goose Woods, many species of birds nest here, including wood thrush, black-capped chickadee, brown creeper, house wren, red-eyed vireo and yellow warbler. Porcupines, coyotes, raccoons, star-nosed moles and white-tailed deer are also found here. See lists of our plants, fungi, lichens and wildlife on our Arboretum Biodiversity page.

Wall-Custance Memorial Forest

The Wall-Custance Memorial Forest is linked to the Wall-Custance Funeral Home and Chapel in Guelph. Donations are made to commemorate the life of a loved one by having a tree planted into a growing forest community. For each donation to the Wall-Custance Memorial Forest Program, a tree or shrub is planted in the Memorial Forest in either spring or fall. Throughout The Arboretum, 'fingers of forest' are planted using 16 species of native trees and 10 species of native shrubs. These forested areas of sponsored memorial trees serve as windbreaks, screening, wildlife corridors and habitat for a variety of organisms. Ten percent ($5.00) of each donation to the Memorial Forest program is added to The Arboretum Endowment Fund to support development and maintenance. 

The Memorial Forest Trail (1.4 km) runs parallel to the Ivey Trail, but farther to the northwest, and leads to the Ontario Horticultural Association Oak Grove.

An annual service of dedication is held in September in the dedication grove located near the entrance to The Arboretum. Names of the individuals for whom commemorative donations have been made are listed at the Wall-Custance Funeral Home & Chapel, website and on memorial plaques at the dedication grove. Since 1989, over 8500 trees and shrubs have been planted under the auspices of this program in memory of loved ones.


Nature Reserve

nature reserve

This 40-hectare (99-acre) area has mature hemlock/beech forest, old fields and a Class I wetland (provincially significant!). It is home to a diverse community of wildlife species including deer, great horned owls, flying squirrels and wood frogs. The Arboretum Nature Reserve is off-limits to the general public due to ongoing University research projects.

Restoration Sites

restoration sites

Before The Arboretum was founded in 1970, most of the land was pasture for cattle and sheep of the Ontario Agriculture College. The Gravel Pit and the Wild Goose Pond site are examples of where we have planted shrubs and trees to create habitat for wildlife. Other areas have also been left to naturalize as meadows and succession forests.

The Gravel Pit Rehabilitation was restored in the 1970s as a research project under the original Master Plan and largely left to naturalize. A recent study has reviewed the area after 40 years. Learn about this history and the success of this early restoration effort in this video: