Keystone trees - key to diversity

Stepping into Nature - Minden Riverwalk

Keystone trees - key to diversity

Minden, Ontario K0M 2A1, Canada

Created By: Haliburton County Master Gardeners


Do you see the White Pine, White Spruce and Red Maples at this tour stop? These trees are excellent representatives of some of the native trees that grow in the Haliburton Highlands. They are native because they evolved with the land and predate the first colonization of the area. They are also all likey “keystone” plants.

The National Wildlife Federation defines “keystone” species as native plants critical to the food web and necessary for many wildlife species to complete their life cycle. Without keystone plants in the landscape, butterflies, native bees, and birds will not thrive. 96% of our terrestrial birds rely on insects supported by keystone plants.

All native species are important perhaps in ways that science has not yet discovered so we are not suggesting that there is a hierarchy among plants but just that “keystone" species are native to a region and always to be preferred over ornamental and specialty cultivars. Some other long established tree species in our area include Basswood (Tilia americana), Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), and White Birch (Betula papyrifera).

For more information on keystone trees and plants, some of which are native to our region, visit:

Don’t be dismayed when you see caterpillars and other insects in the trees taking shelter or eating leaves but rather think of all the clutches of baby birds that will be fed and the moths and butterflies that will later emerge. It’s part of our nature, of the wonder that is the forest food web.

Did you know that pine trees produce both male and female cones? Only the male cones produce pollen, which contributes to the yellow pollen we see floating on the surface of the water and in the air in spring. The large brown cones are the fertilized female cones and protect the seeds within them. All pine trees produce pine nuts or seeds, but the large ones that you eat come from pine trees that grow large cones in more southern regions of the world.

At this tour stop, you’ll also see some excellent sedges (a type of grass commonly found along shorelines, wetlands and of course, riverbanks) and a native shrub called Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago). Nannyberry has beautiful white flowers in spring that attract butterflies and dark blue berries in the fall that are a valuable food source for birds. It tolerates a range of sun and soil conditions.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Stepping into Nature - Minden Riverwalk


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