Alberta, Canada

Introduction to Trees of the Weaselhead

The Weaselhead area is made up of a number of distinct ecosystems. A number of these areas exist due to the presence of one or more of the three native tree species.

Riverine Forest : One of the distinct ecosystems is the Riverine Forest. These are found on the lower flood plains along the riverís edge. The main species found here is one of the deciduous species; the Balsam Poplar. These trees like a high volume of moisture and are able to tolerate flooding. They are distinguishable by their thick, gnarly bark and their larger, pointed leaves. These leaves have a distinct drip tip. The trees supply homes for the many native species of fauna.

Aspen Stands : Away from the riverís edge towards the middle of the Weaselhead, and on the higher land, such as the embankments, we find Aspen stands. These are made up of the second species of native deciduous trees; the Trembling Aspen. The Trembling Aspen is able to reproduce either by seeds or by suckering. Many of the trees in an Aspen stand are just suckers off the root system of another. These stands tend to be short lived as they are susceptible to disease and insect infestations due to limited genetic diversity. Trembling Aspen have smooth green bark. The bark is covered by a white powder that acts as a natural sunscreen. The leaves of the Aspen are more rounded than the Balsam poplar and do not have the distinct drip tip.

Spruce Groves : The spruce groves are made up of the only native coniferous tree found in this area. These trees are found along the waterways throughout the Weaselhead. The native species is the White Spruce. They have short, four sided, needles with a white dusty covering, which gives the tree its name. Two types of spruce groves are found in the Weaselhead area. Older growth, along the west end of the area close to the riverís edge, need a high volume of water due to their size. Newer Spruce Groves are starting to take over the meadows that were formed approximately 60 years ago during training maneuvers for World War I I. In between these distinct forested areas are mixed forests of Balsam poplar and Spruce.

Shrubs : A number of shrubs are found throughout the different forested areas. Examples of some of the shrubs you may come across are: willow, birch, dogwood, cinquefoil, Saskatoon, prickly wild rose, honeysuckle, and snowberry. Shrubs are very important to the wildlife in the Weaselhead, providing food, shelter, and protection to a number of species. Shrubs help to decrease the speed of erosion along the river banks. Throughout the area, they make up much of the under story of the forests.

Introduced species : Introduced plant species can be seen in the Weaselhead. An example is the Mountain Ash along the south embankment. This species has been introduced to the area from the surrounding communities. The mountain ash is a common landscaping species and is found in many yards in the city. The seeds are easily spread as they are usually dispersed by birds and small mammals.