The Humber Arboretum and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources partner on a project to preserve the endangered butternut tree

Humber College, the Humber Arboretum and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources have partnered on a project to help preserve the endangered butternut tree, native to the deciduous forests of Southern Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec. The tree is facing extinction because of a widespread fungal canker that extends throughout the tree’s range.


To help save the species, Humber has teamed up with Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources to grow new trees, planting five saplings in an enclosure in the Arboretum, with plans to plant up to 20 more. Professors and students will also be investigating alternatives to current propagation techniques.


Currently, the only way to create canker-resistant trees is to graft a part of a healthy butternut onto another tree’s root stock, explains Gino Teolis, a professor in Humber’s Landscape Technician program. The research looks to investigate new ways of propagating healthy trees through cuttings, by trying to determine the best medium for them to grow in, and whether rooting hormones will help.


Growing trees from cuttings would reduce the time required to plant new trees. Currently, a grafted sapling isn’t ready to plant for four years, while trees grown from cuttings would be ready to plant in one year.


“Biodiversity is crucial for all life on earth, and the survival or extinction of a single species affects the entire ecosystem,” explains Alix Link, the director of the Humber Centre for Urban Ecology and the Humber Arboretum. “As an Arboretum, we exist for the purpose of conservation and education – we have more than 1,700 species of plants and animals across 240 acres of Carolinian forest, which is some of the most bio-diverse in Canada.”


The project has also created collaborative partnerships between Humber, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Guelph University arboretum, and created research opportunities for Humber staff and students alike.


For more information, please visit the Humber Arboretum website.