The case of the missing maple
Thanks to ongoing restoration efforts that started around 2002, the Beechwood Wetland now thrives along the side of the Lower Don Recreational Trail near Beechwood Dr. At the southern tip of the site, surrounded by a fragmented stand of staghorn sumac, lies a battlefield of sorts, occupied by an army of invasive garlic mustard. On May 19th, 2015, the current stewardship team struck a blow for good with the planting of some eighty native shrubs and trees amongst the garlic mustard, including sugar maple, gray dogwood, red-osier dogwood, and wild raspberry.
The team returned to the planting site a week later to check on the new additions. More than a few of them had already been "browsed" by passing wildlife, likely by deer, which are known to roam these parts. Such is the way of things of course, and the trees will almost certainly recover from their time upon the lunch menu. Shamefully, however, at least one of the planted maples was discovered to have been plundered by guerrilla gardeners, pulled from the ground roots and all, no doubt relocated to private property.
Theft of plant life from our ravines is, sadly, not at all an uncommon occurrence. Some, like this maple, are dug up to save errant home owners a few bucks at the garden centre. Some are claimed for their medicinal value. A community of so-called "wild foragers" arrange group pickings virtually year-round. I've even heard stories of brides-to-be out harvesting "wild flowers" for their upcoming wedding.
While the abundance of the countryside may make this kind of action less destructive, in the urban environment it cannot be dismissed as inconsequential quite so easily. Taking native flowers, fruits, or entire plants deprives local wildlife of the little food stock available to them. It slows down the spread of plant communities, contributing to erosion issues, reducing biodiversity, and allowing new footholds for invasive species. In the case of plants put there by stewards, it represents a waste not only of the efforts of volunteers, but those of the folks who grew and/or donated the stock in the first place. It's also against the law.