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Word of the Week: Frondescence
May 15, 2020 by Julia Miller-Black

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Photo by Andrew Yee

Frondescence [fron-DES-uh-ns] (noun): the condition or period of the unfolding of leaves.

The trees are waking from their long seasonal slumbers! Some buds are still emerging while others have already had their flowers. Either way, we can now start to look forward to the beautiful yet fleeting unfurling of leaves, or frondescence.

High Park is home to a rare habitat called the black oak savannah. The trees that give the habitat its name, black oaks, unfurl their characteristic lobed leaves between April and May. If you get a chance to see the new leaves, the black oak’s scientific name, Quercus velutina, gives a hint as to what you will find. The upper side of these newly opened leaves is quite hairy, or velvety, hence the name velutina. This fuzzy coat helps limit moisture loss as the season begins to warm up.

Black oaks and their savannah home are important habitats for plants, animals, and human animals alike. Squirrels collect oak leaves to make dreys and acorns to eat, raccoons and birds find homes in the tree cavities, and humans can breathe in the oxygen they produce and play in their shade.

The black oaks of High Park stand up to 24 metres tall and have been around for hundreds of years! Their thick bark is resistant to low-intensity fires, which comes in handy when living in the fire-dependent savannah ecosystem. Indigenous groups have historically worked in co-creation with the black oak savannah, maintaining it with carefully timed controlled burns. Whether we are learning about black oak savannah or working to manage and protect it, we must value the ecological knowledge of First Nations groups which can inform decision making, and expand non-indigenous understandings and ways of knowing.

Learn more about “The Indigenous Environmental History of Toronto” in Jon Johnson’s article: https://indigenouslandstewards....

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