Notable Trees of Manitoulin

This hawthorn tree at the Strawberry Lookout has been nominated as a Notable Tree of Manitoulin as part of an initiative of the Manitoulin Nature Club. photo by Jan McQuay

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This spring, the Manitoulin Nature Club launched a Notable Trees of Manitoulin (NTOM) initiative to catalogue significant trees of Manitoulin Island. The club is seeking individuals to nominate trees that are important to them or that are in some way unique. Early surveyors documented trees at the imaginary corners and angles of parcels of land to mark boundaries and called them ‘witness trees.’ This distinction is also used to describe trees present at key historical events or events specific to a particular person such as a wedding or engagement. If there is a ‘witness tree’ in your family’s history, this would be a welcome nomination.

Notable trees can include notable specimens because of their size, form, shape, beauty, age, colour, rarity, genetic constitute or other distinctive features. They can also include living relics that display evidence of cultural modification by aboriginal or non-aboriginal people including having strips of bark or knot-green wood removed, test hole cuts made to determine soundness, furrows cut to collect pitch or sap or blazes to mark a trail. As well prominent community landmark trees, trees associated with local folklore, myths, legends or traditions or specimens associated with an historical person, place or event also qualify for nomination. 

The Expositor will be following this initiative and will be highlighting a selection of these nominated trees and sharing the special stories behind them. 

Anyone wishing to nominate a NTOM or wishing more information about the project can contact notabletreesofmanitoulin@gmail.

com or by writing to Notable Trees, P.O. Box 1006, Little Current, ON, P0P 1K0.

Strawberry Lookout hawthorn tree

LITTLE CURRENT—The hawthorn tree is special to Islanders with a strong history rooted in a Manitoulin legend. Children are still told that in the early days of European settlement on Manitoulin, hawthorn trees grew in abundance on the Island. One winter a famine hit the Island and supplies reached a low with the threat of scurvy. Apparently the settlers survived on hawberries (the fruit of the hawthorn tree) which provided them with not only nourishment, but vitamin C which saved many from scurvy.

The berries have since become a symbol of survival and people born on Manitoulin are called Haweaters.

Today, hawthorn trees prove harder to find on Manitoulin, with many located on private property, which is why when Island photographer Jan McQuay spotted one at the Strawberry Lookout, she thought it would be a perfect candidate for the Notable Trees of Manitoulin. Appropriately, Ms. McQuay’s nomination is the very first one.

“Since visitors are always asking to see a Manitoulin hawthorn tree, and there are very few to point out to them that are accessible, I’m suggesting this one at the Strawberry Channel Lookout, a healthy hawthorn tree on Highway 6 east of Little Current, near the lookout structure,” Ms. McQuay explained. “I think it would be great if the Nature Club put it on the list of notable trees. Since the lookout is cared for by the town, if they put up a sign too, that might help so people wouldn’t  miss it and go home disappointed.  Hawthorn trees are not very big so they can be missed in spite of the thorns which make identification pretty easy.”

The lookout is located on the east side of Highway 6, directly across from the turnoff to the Green Bush Road and just a bit south of the Manitoulin Flee Market location.

“This tree is also a beautiful specimen—big and healthy,” noted Ms. McQuay.

The Hawthorn tree is a relatively small tree, only growing to a maximum height of 20 feet. It is identified by green berries which develop into a deep, red colour in September.

The tree usually grows along fence lines, in old fields and open woods, desiring dry soil. The berries have a slightly sour taste and are difficult to pick due to the inch-long thorns that grow from the tree’s branches, but are rich with vitamin C.

Nevertheless, many people pick the fruit and make Hawberry jelly preserves (using lots of sugar) and 45 years ago, Hawberry Jelly was the very first product of the Hawberry Jams and Jellies business, headquartered in Providence Bay, which now features a vast array of products available at stores throughout Manitoulin and beyond.

The hawthorn is a deciduous tree and a member of the rose family. The name ‘hawthorne’ is derived from the word ‘haw,’ an old English word for ‘hedge.’