The Arboretum is managed by Queen's Facilities. It is publicly accessible seven days a week, dawn to dusk, and free of charge. A self-guided tour is available below.
Dedicated in honour of Principal Snodgrass, the Arboretum was established in 1999 to recognize the many rare and unique trees which exist on the Queen's campus. The boundaries of the Arboretum include the entire lawn area in front of Theological Hall and Summerhill. This area has long been associated with history and the preservation of unique living plants.
Summerhill was the first building acquired by Queen's College in 1853 and at that time, the building was the site of classes in theology, classics, mathematics, and philosophy. The medical faculty eventually held classes in the east wing. It was in 1880 that the Old Arts Building (Theological Hall) was opened. Rev. William Snodgrass was the first Principal to live in Summerhill.
Throughout most of these early years, the slope in front of Summerhill was the site of Canada's first botanical garden. This garden was established in 1861 to foster the study of botany and it thrived for about a decade. The Botanical Society of Canada was founded in Kingston and its main project was the botanical garden.
This Arboretum is a diverse collection of trees including those native to Canada and others which have been introduced from other parts of the world. Some specimens native to Canada are not found in this region of Ontario and therefore their presence in this climate is unusual. It can be concluded therefore, that the arboretum area has a unique microclimate influenced by Lake Ontario and the surrounding campus. The order of the collections is shown on the map and for each numbered specimen there is a corresponding commentary.
Quercus robur 'Fastigiana'
A cultivated oak (Quercus spp.) variety. Easily recognized by its columnar shape, it stands tall and slender. The leaf, although shaped like the native white oak (Quercus alba),is significantly smaller in size with rounded, shallower lobes.
During their trip to Canada in 1901, their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York visited Queen's University. An honorary degree was bestowed upon the Duke, who later, in 1910, became His Majesty King George V. During the same visit, the Duke and Duchess laid a cornerstone at Kingston Hall officially opening the building. This tablet still exists and is located on the south side of Kingston Hall, the building to your far left. At your present location, their Royal Highnesses planted an elm tree (Ulmus spp.) to commemorate the occasion. Unfortunately, this tree did not survive the Dutch elm disease epidemic in the 1950's and has been replaced.
Picea glauca, circa. 1960
Common in most forested regions throughout Canada, with the exception of along the British Columbia coast. The white spruce is important in Canada's lumber industry, for both the production of wood pulp and timber. Also, the tree is planted as an accent tree in landscaping projects. In the past, Indigenous peoples used the pliable roots in association with birch bark to construct canoes.
Platanus x acerifolia
Frequently planted in city parks since it is able to withstand urban conditions. A cultivated hybrid species, the London Plane-Tree is bred to contain traits common to the native American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and the introduced Oriental Plane-Tree (Platanus orientalis). Easily distinguished from other broad leaf trees by the mottled bark on its trunk and the shape of its leaf.
One of two European species introduced to Canada, the glossy buckthorn is considered to be a small tree or shrub and was originally used for hedges. It is distinguished from other buckthorns by the lack of teeth on the edge of the leaves and the 5-8 veins on each side of the central leaf vein.
Native to Europe and southeastern Asia, the Turkish hazel at maturity is regarded as a medium sized tree. Its value is associated with its edible nut, which is protected by a green, flesh-like covering, sticky to the touch and appears to be covered in bristles.
Resilient to drought and shade, the white fir is native to the western United States. It is favored in Canada as an ornamental tree because of its attractive needles, which appear silver in colour. Native Canadian fir trees produce a liquid from blisters on the bark which when extracted is sold as "Canada balsam".
Quercus palustris, circa 1960
Common in southern Ontario, especially abundant in the regions associated with Lake Erie. The common name "pin oak" refers to the abundant stout, blunt branchlets which line the trunk. Most often planted as an ornamental, the wood is sometimes harvested for furniture and flooring.
Tilia cordata spp.
Originally from Europe, it is one of several cultivated varieties now found in Canada. Identified by the delicate and fragrant flowers and fruits in small clusters. The leaves are heart-shaped and easily recognized by the asymmetrical leaf base.
Acer saccharinum, circa 1910
Often confused with the red maple, many hybrid trees have been produced when the two species are found together. Commonly the hollow trunk cavity of the silver maple is used by small animals for shelter or by birds as a nesting space. Now not sold in garden centers because its active root systems can clog drains and branches often break in storms.
Ginkgo biloba, circa 1890
The only species in the Ginkgo family, and also called the Maidenhair tree, the ginkgo is used extensively for city planting. In its native China, the tree is not widespread, and mainly planted in temple gardens. Leaves are easily identified as being fan-shaped with one or more shallow notches. Throughout southeast Asia the seed kernel has commercial value. Additional specimens of the impressive Ginkgo, these representatives are classified as female trees, which are easily identified by the prominent odour associated with the seed coating. For this reason male trees are considered over female trees for planting purposes. (See also #37)
A member of the citrus family, the corktree is native to eastern Asia. The compound leaves have a characteristic odour and produce aromatic oils. The bark is composed of cork ridges which gives an elastic sensation when touched. Despite its name, the corktree is not the world's commercial source of cork, but rather the cork oak (Quercus suber) which is pursued for this product.
Acer rubrum, circa 1920
Named suitably for the colour of its twigs,buds, flowers, and leaf stalks, the red maple retains its red colour throughout most of the year. The leaves turn a brilliant red in the autumn. Take note of the smooth, gray bark common to young specimens. Not a valuable timber source, the tree is mainly used as a source of forage for wildlife. Widespread throughout most of southern Ontario and eastern Canada, the tree is highly variable in form. An older specimen, the bark has become darker in colour to a grey-brown with age. The ridges inherent along the bark are prominent and profound. (See also #32)
Often mistaken for the native American chestnut (Castanea dentata) with its edible chestnut fruit, the name horse chestnut
(Aesculus spp.) originated in Europe when the nut was determined to be inedible. A number of intermediate forms exist
such as this specimen. (See also #26)
Easily distinguished by its blue-green foliage and orange bark, the Scots Pine is the most cosmopolitan of the world's pines. Commonly used as a Christmas tree, it is one of the best sources of soft wood for boat-building. Historically, its resins and oils were harvested as a remedy for the common cold.
Juglans nigra, circa 1890
Although absent from most of Canada, the black walnut does exist naturally in southern Ontario. Most of its commercial uses are associated with the fruit and its components. The fruit can be consumed fresh or added for flavour in cooking dishes. The protective fruit covering is rich in vitamin C. A brown dye produced by the fruit and covering is also used for staining floors. A mature specimen, the ridged, dark brown bark is more evident than on younger specimens. (See also #23)
Fraxinus americana, circa 1920
Easily recognized in autumn by its purple-bronze leaf colouring. A source of hard, tough wood most often used in the manufacture of sports equipment. The most prevalent of all native ashes, white ash bark was at one time used for the treatment of fevers. It has been suggested that the juice extract from a fresh leaf can provide relief when applied to a mosquito bite.
Found throughout Canada, a delicate and picturesque tree. Often associated with its pliable, white bark used in the construction of canoes. The sweet sap can be fermented to obtain alcoholic beverages or used as a shampoo. Its wood is a commercial source of pulpwood and veneer.
Acer saccharum, circa 1930
Displaying spectacular colours in autumn and chosen as Canada's national tree, its leaf is displayed on the center of the Canadian flag. Renowned as the source of the sugary sap used for maple syrup. Its hardwood is valuable in the construction of furniture and production of plywood.
Pinus nigra, circa 1920
Native to southern Europe, the Austrian pine is increasingly being used as an ornamental tree because of its attractive appearance and tolerance to adverse environmental conditions. Its value is increased by the resins and resin products it is able to generate.
Quercus alba, circa 1920
Featured throughout southern Ontario and Quebec, the white oak is an important source of commercial wood for use in the construction of wine casks and barrels. An oil can be harvested from the acorn which is believed to have soothing abilities for aches and pains.
Picea abies, circa 1950
Easily recognized by its large red-brown cones and drooping branchlets, it is native to Asia and Europe. Intensively bred for use in reforestation programs and plantations, it is favored as an ornamental tree. From the vesicles lining the trunk and larger branches, turpentine can be extracted and sold commercially.
The only hemlock native to Eastern Canada, especially apparent in forested regions of the Maritime provinces. A coarse lumber known for its brittle character, the wood has low economic value and generally used for railway ties.
Juglans nigra, circa 1890
Although absent from most of Canada, the black walnut does exist naturally in southern Ontario. Most of its commercial uses are associated with the fruit and its components. The fruit can be consumed fresh or added for flavour in cooking dishes. The protective fruit covering is rich in vitamin C. A brown dye produced by the fruit and covering is also used for staining floors. A mature specimen, the ridged, dark brown bark is more evident than on younger specimens. (See also #15)
The only species of the genus Ostrya nativeto Canada, it is pursued commercially due to the strength of its wood.It is one of the strongest woods indigenous to Canada, and previously was used for runners on sleighs. The name hop-hornbeam is derived from the cluster of fruit which resemble "hops".
Similar in many traits to the native sugar maple (Acer saccharum), the Norway maple was introduced to Canada from Europe and has been cultivated as an ornamental and decorative tree. As a result, there are many varieties in existence.
Aesculus hippocastanum, circa 1930
Able to tolerate urban conditions, it is frequently planted along city streets. In spring, the tree produces magnificent,white, bell-shaped flowers covered in red and yellow markings. Native to the Balkans of southeastern Europe, the bark yields a black dye often used to stain silks and cottons. (See also #13)
Robinia pseudoacacia, circa 1920
Established in much of southern Ontario,the black locust is native to the eastern United States. Able to withstand a variety of stressful conditions, the tree is often chosen for restoration programs. It is planted in wasteland areas or abandoned mine dwellings where other trees are unable to sustain the infertile environment. Fragrant white flowers cover the tree in drooping clusters during early summer. Pursued by small animals and birds, the fruit remain attached to the tree throughout the winter.
Classified as a tall shrub, it can take the appearance of a small tree under encouraging conditions. Grows best at wet locations, it is often found along stream banks and in swamp like areas. Used for fuel locally, the speckled alder has little economical importance.
Although resembling the elms (Ulmus spp.) in general appearance, the hackberry is diverse in form and smaller in size. These traits are favourable for ornamental planting. Fruit are consumed intensively by birds and for this reason, the tree retains the nick-name "bird cherry". Commercially the wood has little value however the bark when separated into its component fibers can yield thread suitable for use in rope and matting.
As you cross over the road to the next tree, take note of the two sugar maples (Acer saccharum) to your left. The road you are now crossing is called Founder's Avenue. On 27 and 28 April 1881, twenty-seven sugar maples were planted to honour the founders of Queen's University and each sapling was planted by a relation or friend of each founder. Sir John A. MacDonald, although no longer Prime Minister, was believed to have taken part in this ceremony, since he played a major role in the establishment of Queen's College.
Gymnocladus dioicus, circa 1898
A rare, but native tree to Canada, usually growing naturally only in two counties of southern Ontario. The genus name Gymnocladus is defined as "naked branch", signifying the prolonged length of time the tree is leafless. In the past, it was common practice to roast the seeds as a substitute for coffee beans, however the bitter taste did not prolong this ritual. The similarity in form and size of its seeds to actual coffee beans condones its present common name, coffee tree.
Tilia americana, circa 1950
Prevalent throughout southern and eastern Ontario, its soft wood is valued for use in hand carving practices. Susceptible to fire damage as a result of its thin bark, it regenerates quickly. Pursued by bee-keepers as a source of nectar. Sought after by cabinet makers for its hard, attractive wood.
Acer rubrum, circa 1920
Named suitably for the colour of its twigs,buds, flowers, and leaf stalks, the red maple retains its red colour throughout most of the year. The leaves turn a brilliant red in the autumn. Take note of the smooth, gray bark common to young specimens. Not a valuable timber source, the tree is mainly used as a source of forage for wildlife. Widespread throughout most of southern Ontario and eastern Canada, the tree is highly variable in form. An older specimen, the bark has become darker in colour to a grey-brown with age. The ridges inherent along the bark are prominent and profound. (See also #12)
Native to Canada, but scarce in the forests of Ontario, it has become established in the Prairie provinces. Its preference for the central Canada regions is attributed to its ability to sustain the climate of the area. Different from other native maples, the Manitoba maple possesses compound leaves, as, opposed to single leaves.
An extremely resilient tree with the ability to tolerate both moist and dry soil conditions, it is frequently associated with limestone bedrock. Smaller in size to its western red cedar (Thujaplicata) counterpart, the white cedar is known to have a twisted, tapering trunk giving the tree a rugged appearance. Planted often as a hedge tree, the leaf-covered twigs are consumed by the white-tailed deer (Odocoileusvirginianus) as a main food source in the winter.
Traditionally found in forestry plantations throughout eastern Canada. Distinguished from other native pines by the colourful, red bark and by its long needles in bunches of two. Considered as a desirable structural timber, it is generally used for poles and railway-ties.
Morus alba, circa 1910
Able to germinate well under urban conditions, the white mulberry easily becomes established in wasteland and undeveloped areas. Native to China, the leaves are consumed by silkworms and therefore pursued commercially.
Ginkgo biloba, circa 1890
The only species in the Ginkgo family, and also called the Maidenhair tree, the ginkgo is used extensively for city planting. In its native China, the tree is not widespread, and mainly planted in temple gardens. Leaves are easily identified as being fan-shaped with one or more shallow notches. Throughout southeast Asia the seed kernel has commercial value. Additional specimens of the impressive Ginkgo, these representatives are classified as female trees, which are easily identified by the prominent odour associated with the seed coating. For this reason male trees are considered over female trees for planting purposes. (See also #10)
Fagus sylvatica, circa 1930
Often planted as an ornamental tree, it has been introduced from Europe and cultivated to produce a number of varieties. The leaves resemble those of the native American beech (Fagus grandifoliaEhrh), except those of the European beech are generally purple in colour. Its smooth, gray, elephant hide-like bark is stunning in the winter landscape.
Although the area in front of Summerhill and Theological Hall is the official site of the Queen's arboretum, seven other species have been chosen to be included in this tour because of their unique features. These specimens are located throughout the campus.
Location: Between Ontario and Grant Hall
Mainly planted as an ornamental specimen and renowned for their large, white, decorative flowers. Distinguished-from other Catalpa species by their long, narrow fruit capsules, prevalent throughout the tree in clusters of 1-3.
Location: West side of Fleming Hall, Pollock Wing
It was believed that this genus only existed in the fossil record until living specimens were identified in China in 1945. Now becoming widespread in Canada as a landscape tree. Unique among the conifers for having 2-ranked, flattened, opposite leaves. Although considered a coniferous tree, the dawn redwood exhibits a deciduous lifestyle in that it loses its needles annually.
Location: Behind Film Studies (160 Stuart St.)
One of Canada's most prized trees, it grows naturally in the Deciduous Forest Region southern Ontario. The tree obtains its name from the attractive yellow-green tulip shaped flowers which bloom in the spring. Take note of the distinctive leaf shape.
Location: Southwest corner of Biosciences
An introduced species from Europe planted as a shade tree, the Sycamore Maple shows affinity to the leaves of the native Maple species (Acer spp.). The upper surface of the leaf is a dark green, and underneath a white to purple green.
Location: South side of Fleming Hall, Jemmet Wing
An older, more luscious specimen of the arboretum representative, take note of the rounded tree shape apparent with age. Younger specimens tend to remain oval and pyramidal.
Location: Southwest corner of Ontario Hall
Well-known as being the 'Blue Spruce', the needles are a conspicuous blue-green colour. Often planted as an ornamental species, they are frequently used as windbreaks.