February 14, 2021
Our wonderful Guelph Arboretum is open year-round, from dawn till dusk for walks and exercise ... even during Covid-19 lockdowns.
The Arboretum's January 2021 newsletter had this eye-catching photo (by Justine Richardson) of their intriguing "Octopus Tree". It is a hackberry that was split apart by the 2013 ice storm but left in place, and now sprouts branches growing straight up that look like mini-hackberry trees.
It is located in The Rotary Grove, a collection of over 130 trees comprising 33 varieties, chosen primarily for aesthetic reasons. This grove was established in 1980 to commemorate Rotary International’s 75th Anniversary and the Rotary Club of Guelph’s 60th Anniversary. The inaugural planting took place May 31, 1980 during a visit from Guelph's sister Rotary Club, Japan's Zushi District 259. Four trees were ceremoniously planted: Canada's national tree, the Sugar Maple and three Japanese Maples.
Several years later, in May 1999, the Rotary Club of Guelph dedicated the Rotary Tree Grove to Roy Hammond, a long-time Rotary member and one of The Arboretum’s most dedicated supporters.
It used to be an annual event for RCOG club members to visit the grove and provide maintenence by cutting grass, removing weeds and debris. Jim Anderson was the lead and funds were budgeted in the Environment Committee each year. Funds were paid to the University of Guelph for annual maintenance.

The following information is from The Arboretum's newsletter, January 2021.


About the Octopus Tree

Dubbed the ‘Octopus Tree’ by our Manager of Horticulture, Sean Fox, this character was split in two during the great ice storm of 2013. Instead of piecing up the limbs and chipping them into a pile of mulch, we left the hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) to recover. It has been fascinating to observe how it has adapted its growth pattern, the sprawled trunks shot new branches straight up, resembling miniature hackberry trees.

The curiosity the Octopus Tree attracts from visitors to The Arboretum is a testament to how rarely damaged plants in our managed environments are invited to remain. Trees in the human landscape often serve a human purpose - planted for shade or privacy or fruit - and it is a treat for us to allow the Octopus Tree to continue growing in its own way. It began as a tree serving the purpose of “exemplary native street tree” in the Rotary Collection, and now it serves as an example of resilience and adaptation.


The Roy Hammond Rotary Tree Grove

Roy was a life-long resident of Guelph, Ontario, and one of its most active, vocal and involved citizens. As one of the founders of Hammond Manufacturing, he worked tirelessly to make the company a success. In his long, productive life, he led by example with an ethic of hard work and stewardship. He was a strong moral presence in everything he did. He was a generous contributor as well as an enthusiastic fund-raiser for many charities and organizations. In retirement, he continued active involvement into his nineties with the Rotary Club of Guelph, the Guelph-Wellington Men's Club and The Arboretum, University of Guelph. He passed away on June 3, 1999, in his 92nd year.

The purpose of the Rotary Grove collection is to display tree species used for urban planting. Trees play a vital role in the urban environment where all too often the reality is asphalt and concrete. The most important benefit provided by trees (other than their beauty!) is climate moderation. Trees reduce wind speed and cool the air by transpiring water from their leaves. Trees prevent dark surfaces (asphalt and rooftops) from storing heat in the summer. Trees also shield us from UV sunlight. A large tree can provide the cooling equivalent of five room size air conditioners. Up to 25% of your property’s value is related to trees.

The layout map of this grove reveals Rotary names such as:

  • Paul Harris Circle
  • W.D. Wood Circle
  • Avenue of Club Service
  • Avenue of International Service
  • Avenue of Community Service
  • Avenue of Vocational Service
  • Friendship Place