The Habitats of Lambton County Pt. 3

A five part series from Return the Landscape will cover the five habitats found in Lambton County: Tall Grass Prairie, Wetlands, The Carolinian Forest, The Rare Oak Savannahs & Coastal Dunes & Beaches.

Part 3: The Carolinian Forest

The climate of southwestern Ontario is moderated by the great lakes and therefore able to support plants and animals typically found to the south, through the Carolinas and Virginias in the USA. The forests of southwestern Ontario are at the northern range of the eastern deciduous forests and officially known here as the ‘Carolinian Forest’.

The Carolinian forest is the most species-rich type of forest in Canada where there are more than twice as many (70+) tree species as found in eastern, northern and western forests. ‘Signature’ tree species here include black gum, black oak, blue ash, honey locust, pawpaw, sassafras, sycamore and tulip tree. The tulip tree is eastern north America’s tallest growing tree. Some of the rare woodland wildflowers found here include American ginseng, appendaged waterleaf, goldenseal, harbinger of spring, squirrel corn, rue anemone, Virginia bluebells and wild geranium. Common woodland wildflowers, such as bloodroot, mayapple, solomon’s seal, trillium and trout lily and common tree species such as red oak, sugar maple and white ash are also found in the Carolinian woods. Good ‘forest interior habitat’ of the Carolinian woods is home to a rich diversity of birds. Bird species include acadian flycatcher, blue-gray gnatcatcher, cerulean warbler, hooded warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, prothonotary warbler, red-bellied woodpecker, scarlet tanager, summer tanager, wood thrush, yellow billed cuckoo, and yellow-throated vireo.

The Carolinian forest is an increasingly rare native plant community in Canada. It’s in the most developed and densely populated region of the country. Estimates indicate we have lost 80 to 90% of our Carolinian forests and that practically no pristine old growth remains. Forest interior habitat, described as the woods that are at least 200 metres from an open edge, has been reduced to just 2% remaining. Today, only isolated fragmented patches of the Carolinian forest exists in Ontario. Some of the best examples are being protected in Backus Woods, the Niagara Glen, Point Pelee National Park and Rondeau Provincial Park. Locally, Pinery Provincial Park and the Lambton County Forest in Port Franks have some good examples of Carolinian forest habitat. Although small, Tarzanland at Canatara park is a nice example of this habitat.

Visit one of these Carolinian forest sites and discover the great diversity of life that exists here. Experience a day in the woods, it will do you good. For more information about the Carolinian woods, contact the Carolinian Canada Coalition, Nature Conservancy of Canada and Lambton Wildlife Inc.

By Larry Cornelis
Return The Landscape