The Great Lakes--St. Lawrence Forest Region

This forest formation extends from Lake of the Woods to Baie de Chaleur and is, essentially, a transition between the boreal coniferous forest and the deciduous forest of eastern North America. The dominant conifers are white pine (Pinus strobus), red pine (P. resinosa), hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and white cedar (Thuja occidentalis); others, apparently invaders from the north, are jack pine, tamarack, balsam fir and white spruce. The dominant hardwood deciduous trees are: sugar maple (Acer saccharum), beech (Fagus grandifolia), yellow birch (Betula lutea), red oak (Quercus borealis), bur oak (Q. macrocarpa) and white oak (Q. alba) on upland soils; with red maple (A. rubrum), silver maple (A. saccharinum), white elm (Ulmus americana), white ash (Fraxinus americana) and black ash (F. nigra) on the low ground. This forest region has probably more species and a greater number of associations than any other in Canada. It is especially noted for the excellent pine timber and deals which for approximately a century were shipped from the St. Lawrence in great quantities.

The vegetation also includes many smaller plants, shrubs and herbaceous forms of the forest floor and the cleared lands. It is not possible to name them all but mention may be made of ground hemlock (Taxus canadensis), juniper (Juniperus communis), hazel (Corylus rostrata), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), sumach (Rhus typhina), poison ivy (R. toxicodendron), service berry (Amelanchier canadensis), wild grape (Vitis vulpina), hawthorn (Crataegus canadensis and many others), raspberry (Rubus idaeus ), blackberry (Rubus canadensis), thimbleberry (R. occidentalis) and honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica). While these may be found sparingly as rather slender stunted forms in the high forest, they show their best growth in cleared, uncultivated lands. Hawthorns have taken over many thousands of acres of pasture in southern Quebec and southern Ontario and large areas are occupied by almost impenetrable tangles of raspberries and brambles. The herbaceous flora of the deciduous forest floor is much richer than that of the boreal region. A few of the common species are mayapple (Podophyllure peltatum), herb Robert (Geranium Robertianum), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), lily of the valley (Maianthemum canadense), baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) , enchanter's nighshade (Corcaea lutetiana), sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), blue wood aster (Aster cordifolius), Ontario aster (A. ontarionis), calico aster (A. lateriflorus), Canada fleabane (Erigeron canadensis) and Canada golden rod (Solidago canadensis). There are many species of aster and goldenrod, almost unnoticed in the forest, which take over large areas of unimproved, low pasture land. On drier sites there is sometimes an almost complete coverage of mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and blueweed (Echium vulgare). As a matter of fact, in most of settled Ontario and Quebec the natural vegetation of the roadsides, fence rows and old fields is more characteristic geographically than the once dominant, but now vanished, forest. Not many geographers, however, are qualified botanists. Nor is a once-over by a taxonomist sufficient. The scene changes from season to season, almost from week to week, from early spring with its faint green, through the succession of summer flowers to the colourful autumn. This is especially emphasized by Macoun and Malte in the following passage:

"Very characteristic of the zone is the autumnal colouring of the leaves of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. This autumnal colouring lasts a comparatively long time, from about the first week in September to the second week in October, dependent upon the dryness of the season. During that period the most splendid display of colours is exhibited, especially in the open mixed woods where underbrush is well developed. Every shade of yellow, golden bronze, red and scarlet is mixed in a gorgeous symphony of colours generally most marvellously modulated by the somber dark green or bluish green of the conifers which are dotted among the deciduous trees. No such wealth of colour is ever met with in any other country." 1

Add to this the lush green of the pastures, the blue of alfalfa in bloom, the changing tints of the ripening fields of wheat, oats and corn as well as the complete mosaic of other crops and it is little wonder that this region has developed a healthy school of landscape painting.

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