A Trail & Garden In The Forest

/A Trail & Garden In The Forest
A Trail & Garden In The Forest2017-09-18T21:47:32+00:00

Morgan Arboretum – Canada 150 Trail

Fifty years ago, on the centenary of the formal establishment of Canada, a collection of birch trees sourced from all the Canadian provinces was planted in the Morgan Arboretum below Chalet Pruche. Speeches were made by important chaps in suits and then the trees were left to get on with it by themselves, their raison d’être being largely forgotten. Some of the trees thrived, some struggled, a couple succumbed to overcrowding, old age and the Montreal climate … but most are still with us (albeit some, only just). Almost everyone forgot what the trees were there for.

Come Canada’s Sesquicentenary in 2017 and the Friends of the Morgan Arboretum, a volunteer organisation, spent the spring and summer in renovating the birch collection and creating a new walking trail amongst and beyond them – the Canada 150 Trail. The trail is short, just three-quarters of a kilometre long, and meanders along the birch rows and makes its way northwards to the (rather mis-named) Bobolink Field before returning by a parallel forest ride a bit to the west. As well as providing a pleasant stroll for visitors that takes them through some interestingly varied habitat the trail will also provide opportunities for educational projects and as an introduction to the varied offerings of the arboretum.

Alongside the trail and near the sugar shack, the Friends have planted a Garden in the Forest comprising a collection of native, berry-bearing shrubs and trees which, as they mature in the years to come, will provide a needed resource of nourishment for the forest birds … especially as some of the species chosen will bear their fruits into the winter months. In future years this may be accompanied by plantings of native perennial flowers that will offer colour and perfume to visitors and seeds to birds while attracting multitudes of butterflies and other insects.

And all the branches and tree trimmings resulting form this renovation – what happens to them? They were transported to the Bobolink Field where they were piled into a “branchery” that provides shelter for small animals and singing posts for birds.

1967 – the original birch trees are planted

2017 – renovation of the old trail begins

Wildlife very rapidly moved in

A few of the volunteers – finishing touches

This is the route of the new trail.

Start just east of Ch. Pruche by the first birch tree (NO dogs!) and walk anti-clockwise; circle the field following the line of birch trees. Pause at the stone bench and then go north along Birch Tree Alley. At the Orange trail turn left, watch the birds in the Branchery on your right.  A little further on turn left again into a small glade, descend the glade, turning left at the bottom through a short leafy passageway to reach The Copse

  1. Chalet Pruche
  2. The “Branchery”
  3. The Wildlife Copse

Walking the Trail

(Click any image below to enlarge it)

Before the Friends started work … the circle of birch trees around the butterfly field being encroached upon by the pines and larches.

(2) The start of the trail. Note the red trail sign on the tree …. there will be more of these to help you walk the trail

(5) Turn to the right and pause to sit on the stone bench looking up Birch Alley

(7) At the end of Birch Alley you will come out on the main (Orange) trail facing the field containing the “Branchery” diagonally to your left. Turn left on the Orange Trail and in a few metres on your right you will see a mown path to the Branchery – follow it.

(9) Wildlife are already using the Branchery. Many birds perch and sing from the taller parts while Chipping and Song Sparrows, Indigo Buntings and House Wrens find food and shelter in the crevices.

(11) Opposite the red trail marker shown here, turn left and enter the Glade

(13) Cross the Glade, noting the extensive growth of ferns and listening for birds in the trees

(15) Enter the path under the trees at the end of the Glade

(17) You will pass the Sugar Shack to your right

(19) Pass, or maybe stop at the memorial bench under the larch tree to watch for birds and butterflies. See the Eastern Phoebe on the back of the bench in this photograph.

(1) Chalet Pruche … from this position go down the road a few metres to the right to reach the trail head

(3) Follow the arc of birches. You can walk on either side of them – check the labels on some trees to find out which province they came from.

(4) As you follow the curve of birches you will see the newly planted Wildlife Berry “Copse” ahead of you


(6) The view from the new stone bench up Birch Alley. Walk up the middle (sometimes muddy) or keep to the left of the birches.

(8) The Branchery was created from branches removed during the making of the trail – they are surrounded by a stout fence.

(10) Follow the Orange Trail westwards for a short distance; larches on your left, the Branchery field on your right.


(12) Enter the Glade and walk straight ahead towards the red trail marker in the distance

(14) Looking back down the Glade

(16) Follow the path under the trees, checking for interesting plants in the undergrowth. Keep the old field wall to your right.

(18) At this point you will find yourself at the Berry Copse. Have a look at the trees and shrubs and perhaps decide which ones you could grow in your garden to attract wild birds. Imagine what this will look like in five, ten, or twenty years from today.

(20) Go up the slope back towards Chalet Pruche to complete the Canada 150 Trail.

The Wildlife Berry Copse

The Copse offers a feast of berries and other fruits to the forest birds that will last from early summer (Amelanchier canadensis – Serviceberry) right through into the winter snows (Ilex verticillata – Winterberry).

At the beginning, the trees and bushes are small and well spaced but in the years to come they will grow in height and width to merge together, thus offering the birds not only a huge amount of valuable food but also shelter from the weather and predators. The central tree is an American Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) that in years to come will attain a height of over sixty feet and be home to potentially hundreds of species of birds and insects.

All of the plants in the Copse are ones you can grow in your own gardens to attract wildlife.

The Garden in the Forest – the plantings shortly after they were placed in early summer. Since then, the encroaching native plants have been trimmed back and a path created around the Copse.

A mini-stumpery of old salvaged wood from the site of this garden will decay in the years to come and contain insects and fungi, mosses and ferns to feed and attract wildlife. The red berries are Winterberry bushes that will carry their fruit into the winter snows. In time they will grow to 8 or 10 feet in height.

We talk a lot about birds and butterflies, but the trail is home to a host of other very interesting wildlife, such as this beautiful Garter Snake, and many frogs, toads, rabbits, chipmunks, raccoons and deer.