In Search of Ontario Red Spruce – Part 1

By Owen Clarkin

Following our visit with Norbert Lussier on Super Bowl Sunday to discuss Red Spruce (Picea rubens) in Ontario, I decided to take a trip to the Plantagenet area.

I had wanted to check out the Plantagenet area more thoroughly even before we had visited Norbert, as I figured that the forests on either side of the town both had a good chance of Red Spruce being present.  I had driven through this area on the way home from Montreal once in May 2017.  Up to this point, there was something of a “gap” here, with the closest Red Spruce being at:

  1. SNCA property at north end of Garlandside Road (a large population here): e.g.
  2. Lavigne Natural Park North; both plantation trees and probably at least one wild older tree along with seedlings/saplings:
  3. Alfred area: I had found two individual trees previously, one in the town of Alfred and one northeast of the bog:

On a very cold sunny morning (9 February 2020), Swampy (aka Mike Leveille) and I left Ottawa early to search the backroad forests on both sides of Plantagenet for Red Spruce and anything else of interest.  As preparation, I had scouted for several hours on Feb 7/8 what I could of the area on Google Streetview, and had already noted areas which looked promising and/or appeared to contain Red Spruce.  Much of the area hasn’t yet been documented by the Google Streetview car.  From approximately 9am-10am we ended up finding four (“new, to me at least, and apparently as yet undocumented by anyone) populations of Red Spruce, three of which I had suspected to be RS from Google Streetview homework.  It is likely that more Red Spruce can be found here by continuing to search the backroads.

I will briefly summarize what we found, by population.  I don’t know the ownership situation of the properties, but would all appear to be private as a guess.  See Map 1 for the population locations.

Red Spruce population observations in Eastern Ontario
Map 1 – Four populations of Red Spruce found on 9 Feb 2020 (map from iNaturalist).

Population 1, West of Plantagenet on Concession 6

Red Spruce in Eastern Ontario
iNaturalist Observation 38484845 (O. Clarkin).

The first population is the only one of the four I hadn’t noted on Google Streetview during my “homework”, but doing so would have been impossible anyway as the Google car hasn’t yet gone down this road.  Four mature trees were noted, two on each side of the road within a short distance of each-other.  The two trees on the south side of the road would be virtually impossible to see from road during the growing season, while the ones on the north side are adjacent to the road and could have been spotted any time of year.  The trees are:

Population 2, West of Plantagenet, approximately 2 km NE of Population 1, on Concession 5

Red Spruce in Eastern Ontario
Red Spruce on Concession 5 (O. Clarkin).

This population consists of at least two trees which were photographed with links to observations below.  Finding these trees caused me significant confusion, as I was expecting to be in a forest on both sides of the road, and the Google satellite indicated I was in a forest as well.  It turns out the the forest on the south side of the road had been cut down and completely removed since the Google Streetview and satellite images had been taken.

Google Streetview:;
Google satellite:

It is fortunate that the Red Spruce here on the north side of the road have not been cut down, but I must wonder if they are “safe”.  The trees are:

Population 3, East of Plantagenet on Boundary Road

Red Spruce in Eastern Ontario
iNaturalist Observation 38485842 (O. Clarkin).

At least four mature trees, with the fifth one that was visible on Google Streetview (the one I actually had noted as a probable RS on Streetview)  now gone.  Link to Streetview of missing tree here, it is right beside the White Pine:  Again, I wonder about whether these trees are “safe” given the recent disturbance.

The four Red Spruce trees are shown in two observations below:

Population 4, east of Plantagenet, approximately 1km SE of Population 3, on Concession 7 at Boundary Road

iNaturalist Observation 38486548 (O. Clarkin).

Approximately 10 early maturity trees observed, on both sides of Concession 7 near the intersection with Boundary Rd.  Note that houses have been built in the woods containing these trees, so their long-term protection may be questionable. The RS trees are:


All of the trees in all four populations are approximately the same apparent age, early in maturity.  This suggests they have regrown since massive disturbances across this area at a similar date, presumably an original wave of clearcutting which I would estimate probably occurred late 19th-century or thereabouts.

Note the abundance of Red Maple (Acer rubrum) visible in all of the photos from the four Red Spruce populations.  These populations appear to occur in the same kind of conditions as the rest of the Ottawa-Hawkesbury Red Spruce “belt”, i.e. acidic clay on sandy substrate.

Bonus:  Check out this lovely Slippery Elm and Rock Elm that were found on Feb 9th following the Red Spruce search (also note the “controversy” regarding the Rock Elm).