A Headwaters’ Giant

Do you know of a bigger tree in the Headwaters Region?

December 5, 2017 | | Notes from the Wild

A very big tree grows at Ken Whillans Resource Management Area in Caledon. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb (sorry!) and call it the biggest tree in the Headwaters, in diameter at least. Now with the Headwaters full of trees, I admit this is a rather fanciful assertion. But humour me for now.

Arborists and foresters measure the diameter of trees 4.5 feet above the ground. They call this DBH, (Diameter at Breast Height). The DBH of the Ken Whillans silver maple is almost exactly my height: 1.77 metres, a little short of 6 ft., and its circumference is 5.59 m or just over 18 ft. Impressive.

Of course, the size of trees can be quantified in various ways. Diameter yes, but also height and volume of wood. This silver maple is certainly not the tallest Headwaters tree. Somewhere in our hills grows a white pine that likely takes that honour. White pine can exceed 40 m in height.

The Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) of the Ken Whillans silver maple is 1.77 metres, and its circumference is 5.59 m or just over 18 ft. Impressive.

The Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) of the Ken Whillans silver maple is 1.77 metres, and its circumference is 5.59 m or just over 18 ft. Impressive.

Silver maples give their name to the swamps where they grow in the wild. These silver maple swamps fill with water in the spring, but are usually dry during the summer. The standing water early in the year discourages the growth of most tree species, but the moisture-tolerant silver maples thrive.

Despite its impressive size, this maple is probably not very old, at least in tree terms. Silver maples grow quickly and die young, at 125 years of age or so. Small, gnarled cedars clinging to the escarpment face at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park are the Methuselahs of our hills at several hundred years old.

If you know a tree that would nudge me off the rather shaky limb I find myself on, please tell me. Until then I’ll champion the Ken Whillans silver maple as the Headwaters biggest tree.

About the Author More by Don Scallen

Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".

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