Along the cliff-face of the Niagara Escarpment grows an ancient forest. These gnarled looking trees that cling to the escarpment’s rocky crevices are Eastern White Cedar. This adverse environment with full exposure to the elements results in extremely long lived trees, some of which have been discovered to be more than 1,000 years old (and still growing!). Radiocarbon-dating revealed that one tree which had fallen off the cliff-face down onto the talus slope below, was 3,550 years old when it died. This makes the escarpment cedars the oldest living trees in Eastern North America.
Mount Nemo in north Burlington is one of the best locations to observe this spectacular cedar forest; the oldest tree here is 885 years old. Nemo is also featured in a number of paintings by Canadian artist Robert Bateman. Mr. Bateman used to live in the area and would bring his high school students to Mount Nemo for outdoor art classes.
I recently visited Nemo with a Naturalist friend, but with a storm approaching, we briskly hiked the trails and only stopped momentarily to take photos. I definitely plan to return to draw these old trees and the surrounding cliffs - there is no shortage of inspiring subjects to draw wherever you look.
To learn the full story about these escarpment cedars, look for this book: The Last Stand by Peter Kelly and Douglas Larson.