Native Tree Starting Kits – All Reserved for 2023
For the third year in a row, we’re providing free Native Tree Starting Kits to Hamilton residents to help us grow Hamilton’s urban forest!
Grow your own native tree species! Kit includes (1 of 8 native tree/shrub species) 4 tree/shrub seeds/acorns, soil, growing pot, and tree planting and care instructions. To register for your kit, complete the form HERE.
NO GREEN THUMBS NEEDED: Just follow the easy step-by-step instructions and you’re good to go! When the time is right, we hope to invite you to plant trees at one of our planting events to grow Hamilton’s canopy cover! Read more about Canopy for Community.
This program is generously supported by the Dougher Foundation of the Hamilton Community Foundation with the support of the Conserver Society of Hamilton and District, and several generous seed collectors, including Sheldon McGregor.
Check out last year’s trees:
What is a Native Tree?
A native tree is one that occurs naturally in local forests. Native trees are important for providing food and shelter for our wildlife and manufacturing oxygen for both animals and humans.
Learn More About Native Trees and Shrubs Below:
About Butternut Trees
Butternut (Juglans cinerea) is a native tree that grows throughout central and eastern North America – in Canada, they can be found in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Butternut is considered endangered according to the Species at Risk in Ontario list. It is also known as white walnut for its pale gray bark and is related to the black walnut tree (Juglans nigra) and other members of the walnut family.
Photo Source: ValerieZinger/Flickr
Butternut is a medium-sized tree that can grow up to 30 meters high and can be easily recognized by its compound leaves – which are made up of 11 to 17 leaflets. The fruit of the butternut is a large nut surrounded by a light green, sticky, fuzzy husk. It is not as round as the black walnut but rather longer than wider. Its nuts are edible to humans – the nut is oily and can be eaten as is when matured or prepared in a variety of ways. Fun fact: The Iroquis crushed and boiled butternuts and served the mixture as baby food or drinks, or processed it into bread, puddings, and sauces.
Photo Source: The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova
About Common Elderberry Shrubs
Common Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a multistem native shrub that grows mainly in the southern parts of Ontario and eastern parts of North America. It grows 2 to 4 meters high and 2 to 3 meters wide. It is a member of the Adoxaceae (muskroot) family.
Photo Credit: Minnesota Wildflowers
Elderberry produces dense clusters of white flowers during the summer, followed by purple-black edible fruit that can be cooked and used in jellies, jams, pies, and more. Its flowers are also used in wine making or can be deep fried. It can be planted in naturalized areas, as a hedge, in a woodland, or along streams. It is also commonly grown in home gardens as it’s a good addition to butterfly, edible, native, pollinator, or rain gardens. This plant has low-severity poison characteristics – fruits, leaves, roots, and stems can contain Cyanogenic glycoside and alkaloids.
Photo Credit: Not So Hollow Farm
About Northern Spicebush Shrubs
Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a medium-sized deciduous shrub that is native to eastern North America, from Main and Ontario in the north to Kansas, Texas, and northern Florida to the south. This shrub can grow to 5 meters tall and can be usually found in the understory of moist scrub.
Photo Credit: Indigescapes
Northern spicebush has slender, light green branches and glossy leaves that alternate on the branchlets. It has dense umbel-like clusters of tiny, pale yellow flowers that bloom before the leaves which are followed by glossy red fruit. Both the fruit and foliage are aromatic and give off a spicy odour when rubbed or crushed. The twigs, fruit and leaves of this plant can make a fragrant tea which is traditionally used to treat colds. Spicebush is dioecious, meaning it needs both female and male plants to establish berries.
Photo Credit: Gardenia
About American Highbush Cranberry Shrubs
American Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) is native to Canada that can be found from New Brunswick to British Columbia and North to Alaska making it very winter hardy. The highbush cranberry is not a true cranberry, although its fruits strongly resemble cranberries in both appearance and taste. It is a Viburnum, a member of the Caprifoliaceae or Honeysuckle family compared to the true cranberry, which is a Vaccinium, a member of the Ericaceae – Heather or Heath – family.
Photo Credit: Kiwi Nurseries Ltd.
Highbush cranberry can grow between 2 to 4 meters high and has opposite, simple leaves that are dark green and resembles maple leaves. They have showy white flowers that bloom in June followed by bright red fruit/drupes that ripen from August to September which can be used for preserves and jellies – can be eaten raw or cooked – and attracts birds.
Photo Credit: Select Seedling Nursery Ltd.
About Burr Oak Trees
Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) is part of the white oak category and is most commonly found in Canada. It can range from southeastern Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec and east to New Brunswick. It is more commonly found in the Deciduous Forest Region and in scattered groupings throughout the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest Region.
Photo Credit: Kansas Forest Service
The burr oak is medium-sized that grows up to 30 meters in height. Its bark is rough, with irregular scaly plates, becoming regularly furrowed with age. Leaves are 15 – 30 cm (6″ – 12″) long with variable irregular lobes. Most leaves are broadest in the upper half and taper to a narrow base. In the fall, leaves turn yellow-green or yellow-brown and may remain on the tree into winter. The acorn cup is rough, shaggily fringed near its rim and almost envelopes the acorn like a burr. It can survive forest fires because it has very thick bark. It can also tolerate drought because its roots grow deep into the ground.
Photo Credit: Arborilogical
About Chinquapin Oak Trees
Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehllenbergii) is a Carolinian species, common throughout the eastern United States but only found in southern parts of Ontario. It can be referred to as Yellow Chestnut Oak as it is one of the ‘chestnut oaks’ in the white oak group.
Photo Credit: Wilson Landscape and Tree Nursery
The chinquapin oak can grow up to 30 meters in height and 60 cm in diameter. When mature, its bark becomes pale gray with thin, narrow scales. Leaves are long, alternate, blades, with 8-15 sharp, pointed, and bristled teeth per side. Chinquapin oak leaves are glossy, coarsely toothed, yellow-green leaves that are smaller than most oaks and resemble chestnut leaves. Its acorns are edible and sweet – about ¾” long and ovoid in shape when mature.
Photo Credit: Vojtech Zavadil
About American Hazelnut Shrubs
American Hazelnut (Corylus americana) is a native multi-stemmed shrub that is found throughout the midwest, east, and southeast of the United States and Canada. It is able to thrive in a wide range of conditions that can be planted for hedgerows or windbreaks.
Photo Credit: My Garden Life
American Hazelnut can grow up to 4 meters high and suckers moderately – eventually producing a multi-stemmed, clump appearance. Its leaves are alternate and simple, with dark green, broadly oval in shape with margins sharply cut into double teeth. Its fruit is an edible nut that is enclosed in a leaf-like hairy bract that has ragged edges. This is green initially, becoming brown at maturity. Nuts will usually be in a cluster of 2 to 5. Its nuts are preferred by squirrels, deer, turkey, woodpeckers, pheasants, grouse, quail and jays. The male catkins are a food staple of ruffed grouse throughout the winter.
Photo Credit: Prairie Gardens
About Swamp White Oak Trees
Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) is a member of the white oak group – which includes bur oak and white oak. This native rugged tree is uncommon, but can be found in moist bottomlands in southwestern Ontario, in the Niagara Region and an isolated stand at the eastern edge of Ontario-Quebec.
Photo Credit: Plant It Wild
Swamp White Oak grows up to 22 meters tall and 21 meters wide with some specimens living up to 300 years old. Young swamp white oaks have an attractive peeling bark which becomes deeply ridged and dark brown. Its leaves are lobed with a two-tone appearance – dark green on top with a silvery-white underside. The acorns have a long stalk and the scales on the acorn cap are recurved and pointed.
Photo Credit: Purdue University Fort Wayne
Start your tree seeds indoors now.
Share what you learn about growing native trees and all their benefits as they sprout through the months on social media and join our Facebook Page #GVPlantsTrees! (Use the hashtag #CanopyForCommunity
For more information: