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Red and yellow fall colours.
Fall colours at XX Wheeler Avenue.


Merridy Cox

Lyrical Leaf Publishing

November 2015

Photos courtesy of Merridy Cox


This 8-page booklet is an example of a personalized catalogue of trees growing at a private address in Toronto.

Would you like to know the species of trees on your property? Contact Lyrical Leaf Publishing.

This service is available for private property only in the Toronto area.



Norway Maple

(Acer platanoides)

The Norway maple, native to Europe, has leaves that look very much like the native sugar maple, which is on the Canadian flag. Norway maples are hardy and have been planted extensively around Toronto. They are now considered an invasive alien, as they have spread into ravines and the countryside. As a city tree, they are shady and have lovely spring flowers.

Acer platanoides
Norway maple leaves are similar to those of our native sugar maple.

In the fall the leaves turn yellow and may be edged with brown or green.

Cat and yellow maple.
Jade the cat watches the Norway maple turning yellow in the fall.

The seeds of the maple are double helicopter wings, called a samara. In a Norway maple, the two wings of the samara are wide spread. Squirrels like to eat maple keys as the sap is somewhat sweet.

Acer platanoides
Norway maples have seeds in widely angled wings called samaras.

Purple-leaved Cherry

(Prunus virginiana var.)

The lovely cherry tree in the front lawn has a smooth grey trunk and lovely red leaves. This is likely a cultivar related to the native chokecherry tree, perhaps a Schubert cherry. If so, the spring flowers will be held in elongated clusters.

Prunus sp.
These leaves of the purple cherry turn a brilliant red in the fall.

White Ash

(Fraxinus Americana)

The neighbour’s ash tree leans over the front of the property, shading the garden and the street.

Fraxinus americana
The white ash has compound leaves.

Recently, it has been heavily pruned so that more sunlight reaches the house.

Tree pruning; arborists.
The ash tree is pruned, allowing more light to penetrate the canopy.

Ash trees are susceptible to insect damage, and this tree has been inoculated by the City of Toronto and given a label on the street side.

Ash have compound leaves with five to nine leaflets.

Ash have narrow samara or winged fruit, somewhat similar to the maple, but hanging together in clumps. They look rather like the shape of a canoe paddle blade.





(Syringa vulgaris)

The only tree actually rooted in the back garden in a large lilac with a high canopy.

Lilac are easy to grow and were commonly planted around the dwellings of pioneering families in Ontario. This lilac may have been one of the original plantings after the house was built.

In spring, the flowers have a lovely scent and attract butterflies.

Syringa vulgaris
This lilac has grown quite tall.
Syringa vulgaris
An old lilac can become a small tree.

The other trees in the back of the house grow in the neighbours’ yards, but their canopies provide shade and visual interest. They are home to many birds, squirrels and sometimes, raccoons.

Northern White Cedar

(Thuja occidentalis)

The cedar has flat, scaly leaves and small brown cones. It is an evergreen, but loses some leaves every winter. Cedars provide an aromatic, cooling effect in a garden. Cedars are often used as hedge trees, but left alone they can grow very tall.

Thuja occidentalis
Cedar trees have flat scaly leaves and small brown cones.

Cardinals love to nest in cedars, as do English Sparrows. This cedar grows up between the houses and has been used as a road for raccoons to climb onto the neighbour’s roof.

Black Alder

(Alnus glutinosa)

The black alder was imported from Europe. The tree has the ability to pull nitrogen out of the soil, which helps nearby plants to grow. Root nodules contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Alder bark contains the precursor to salicylic acid, or aspirin.

It has leaves similar to elm, sometimes with double teeth along the edge, sometimes with a blunt tip. Native alders grow as scrubby trees along the edges of wetlands. The tree growing across the back fence, however, is over three storeys tall.

Alnus glutinosa
Black alder trees can grow quite tall.

The alder grows catkins early in the spring, and these produce fruits that resemble little pinecones.

Alnus glutinosa
Alder trees have catkin flowers that turn into cones in the fall.

This alder grows over the back fence of the garden.

Horse Chestnut

(Aesculus hippocastanum)

The horse chestnut grows along the south side of the garden, just over the fence. It has leaves resembling the spokes of a wheel, with large wedge-shaped leaflets.

Aesculus hippocastanum
Horse chestnut leaves catch the summer sun.

The glory of the horse chestnut is the flowers that follow after the new leaves emerge like green hands. The flowers are large and beautiful enough to inspire springtime romance.

Aesculus hippocastanum
The horse chestnut flower is very beautiful.

In the late summer and early fall, green fruit with tough, spiny spikes grow along the old flower stalks. Squirrels like to cut the chestnut fruits and open them on the ground. The nuts are a brilliant reddish-brown colour with a large, dull grey “eye.”

Aesculus hippocastanum
The horse chestnut fruit develop as tough, spiny globes with a hard nut inside.

Young children love to collect and play with chestnuts or “conkers.” There is an expression about jokes that have been heard time and again since childhood: “That’s an old chestnut!”

Aesculus hippocastanum
Horsechestnut “conkers” are sometimes used in children’s games.

Chinese Elm

(Ulmus parvifolia)

The Chinese elm was introduced as an ornamental good for creating hedges. Left to grow, however, they get tall. Such is the tree in the garden to the south, which has a high canopy of small leaves. Chinese elm may also be grown as bonsai.

Ulmus parvifolia
The Chinese elm has smaller leaves than the American elm.

The Chinese elm is resistant to Dutch elm disease, which has decimated the gracious American elms that used to shade our streets and country roads. The leaves of the Chinese elm are much smaller than our American elms.

Elms also have a samara fruit, but the wings encompass the seed in a circle or pie-plate shape.