Thuja occidentalis

Another cool little experiment.

I uprooted a tiny Eastern White Cedar (Thuja Occidentalis) while hiking in the woods around in the Algonquin region of Ontario. These trees are slow growers and love moist, nutrient rich soil. They are sometimes referred to as Swamp Cedars.  Apparently, Jacques Cartier called it the tree of life after indigenous folks keyed him into the ability of the tree to prevent scurvy (remember this if you’re ever stuck in the woods for months.) by providing a source of Vitamin C. Though, due to the presence of the neurotoxic compound thujone, internal use can be harmful if used for prolonged periods or while pregnant.

Thuja Occidentalis can be a very long-lived tree in certain conditions, with notably old specimens growing on cliffs where they are inaccessible to deer and wildfire; the oldest known living specimen is just over 1,100 years old, but a dead specimen with over 1,650 growth rings has been found

I wasn’t sure if this tree was going to survive. I don’t really understand how the tree works with the seasons – does it need a wintering period?

I am also not sure if there is any way that the tree might leech the resins present in coniferous trees into the water (many online resources suggest not using conifer wood in your aquarium for this reason).

All this said, the tree is starting to produce new growth and moving towards the light.

Another mildly successful experiment.

Northern Ontario – Woods and Shorelines

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I chose the Amazon basin as an inspiration and model for the aquatic portion of the paludarium.

That was because of a couple things: The popularity of many fish from the region means there are a variety available and that the environmental requirements of the fish are well understood. I considered trying to make a northern Ontario inspired project but it was very difficult to find information about the fish and water parameters that would be of use to a hobbyist. I thought about just catching minnows and other small fish, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to feed them adequately, what temperatures they need (would I need to cool my tank in the summer? That would be prohibitive.) and most of interest to me, did a small fish from Northern Ontario require a winter period and how would the lack of one affect fish behaviour and health.

So while the tank is somewhat South American, the shore line is very much inspired and populated by Northern Ontario woodlands in early summer.

I find this area of the planet so compelling – the extremes of climate in the Boreal forest are so radical and evident. Its one of the funny things about spending all this time trying to mimic or recreate a small and ultimately futile slice of nature inside a glass display case; its no where close to the overwhelming feeling one has while surrounded by a vast, natural ecosystem.

This is a small collection of photos that I’ve taken while wandering about in the woods.

*** update photo gallery ***