The lands of the Humber Arboretum include forests, meadows, wetlands, ponds, and the Humber River itself. Learn about the natural world you can discover without ever leaving the city.
There are three branches to the Humber River – East, West and Main. The Arboretum sits on the 45 kilometre West branch, which runs from Caledon through Brampton before connecting to the Main Branch south of the Arboretum. In 1999 the Humber River was named a Canadian Heritage river in recognition of its "outstanding cultural and recreational values." It is the only designated heritage river in the Greater Toronto Area.
Wetlands are an essential part of healthy urban ecosystems. Whether they are present year-round or flood and dry up seasonally, wetlands help to prevent flooding and improve the water quality of rivers and lakes, all while providing essential habitat for wildlife. Some wetlands at the Arboretum have been reconstructed based on the historical location where wetlands existed before land was converted to farming, others were newly constructed, and one was naturally created by the Humber River itself. Restoring and caring for wetlands is a key part of the Arboretum's commitment to thriving nature and healthy communities.
The Humber Pond plays a key role in managing runoff water from Humber College's north campus before it reaches the Humber River. The Humber Pond Revitalization Project is an innovative, collaborative initiative to improve water quality in the pond while increasing natural habitat for wildlife, providing new social gathering spaces for our community, and creating an outdoor classroom and living laboratory space for students.
The City of Toronto is on the edge of the Carolinian Life Zone. Known for its variety of deciduous trees (and the variety of wildlife that comes with them), this bioregion stretches across much of the eastern United States, but only the very northern edge reaches into Canada. That means many of the plants and animals which can be seen in places like the Humber Arboretum won't be found naturally occurring anywhere else in the country. Because much of Canada's Carolinian region has already been developed, it's especially important to protect the natural areas we have left.
The Carolinian is known for deciduous trees and shrubs with their leaves that change colour and drop off in the fall. The forests of the Humber Arboretum include Carolinian indicator species such as black walnut, shagbark hickory, pawpaw, ironwood, and Kentucky-coffee tree. Several types of maple are prevalent at the Arb, especially the hard-to-miss sugar maples hung with sap collection buckets at the end of winter. Spring brings ephemerals such as trout lily and trillium sessile – wildflowers that bloom when still-bare branches allow sunlight to reach the forest floor.
With a variety of habitats and the West Humber River serving as a transportation corridor for wildlife, there are many animals that live or travel through the Arboretum grounds. This includes white-tailed deer, chipmunks, groundhogs, beavers, coyotes, rabbits, raccoons, red foxes, and even Canada’s only marsupial the opossum. Fish, frogs, and turtles fill the ponds and river, including the snapping turtle – a species of special concern in Ontario. Birds are abundant at the Arb, which is major migration stopover, Depending on the time of year, hawks, owls, woodpeckers, waterfowl, songbirds, and many others soar, float, and perch around the grounds.