Four Ecological Zones
The Red Hill Valley and it’s trails are made up of four ecological zones:
The Red Hill Valley features a Deciduous Forest, which is a combination of naturally-occurring trees which produce leaves that fall in autumn. It has softwood and hardwood trees such as oak, hickory, chestnut, cucumber, sassafras, papaw, dogwood, ash, sycamore and walnut trees. There are also evergreen trees, ones with needles that stay green all year. This forest is a combination of naturally-occurring trees and trees that resulted from a tree farm in the Valley. In 1977, there were 198 million acres of forest, with 90 different species of trees, in Ontario, seven times the amount of forest in all of France.
During the whole of our excursion we passed through woods copiously adorned with flowers of the most exquisite hues and fragrance, the names of which we could not learn, The numbers of fragrant trees, of a size unknown in Europe, was equally great. . .
A tour along the banks of the lake is extremely pleasant; the prospect of this vast sheet of water is majestic, and the traces of culture, which upon the whole has been commenced on the best principles, offer a picture, on which both the eye and the mind dwell with equal pleasure. (François Alexandre Frédéric la Rochefoucault-Liancourt, TRAVELS IN CANADA, 1795)
The Forest and Clearing has significance environmentally. The Carolian forest of the valley is offset with both natural and man-made clearings or meadows. Some bushes and trees will make their way into meadows, eventually expanding the range of the forest. Natural meadows are clearings full of tall grasses and song birds. There is an environmental interplay between these zones.
Rosedale Park Flats
Agricultural uses were prevalent in the Valley until the late 1950’s which eliminated much of the forest cover in the floodplain, leaving oak forest cover concentrated along the Valley slopes. However, some remnants of natural floodplain forests remained between Queenston Road and upstream of the TH&B rail line, which contained a variety of Carolinian species (i.e. plant species which are more common further south) such as Black Walnut, Sycamore, Jumpseed, and Wild Yam.
The fragmented floodplain forests, combined with slopes and edge habitats, are considered important for migrating birds. Floodplain forest habitat received the greatest amount of impact from the Parkway construction and creek relocation works. Floodplain replanting is occurring all along the Valley, with a major focus in the vicinity of the former Rosedale baseball diamonds where more than 4 hectares of new floodplain forest has been created. Beginning in 2000, seed collection of floodplain trees, shrubs and ground covers was undertaken to produce plant materials for this restoration work.
The Red Hill Valley Watershed
A watershed is an extensive area that impacts upon a waterway like the Red Hill Creek. The Red Hill Valley watershed is the drainage within a 60 mile radius as seen on the map. If polluted water is sent down the Valley, wildlife and plants and humans will suffer. In order to restore one aspect of the ecosystem, the vitality of the entire watershed needs to be considered.
The White Pine (Pinus strobus L.)
This is the largest pine tree, growing up to 150 feet and five feet in diameter. The white pine has five needles for each “leaf”. Referred to as Ohnheta, in the Mohawk language, the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) selected the white pine to represent the concept of peace, always green and providing shelter in the forest. They also call it the “Tree of Peace.” The five needles coming together represent unity of the original five nations – Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk. Can you spot a white pine?