Leaf Litter Arthropods of the Morgan Arboretum

Invertebrates, while small, play an integral role in our ecosystem in the St. Lawrence Lowlands. In leaf litter, they aid greatly in the decomposition of organic matter, as cited by Vasconcelos and Laurance in their article on soil fauna (2005). Invertebrates are animals that lack a backbone, but this is where most of the obvious […]

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Shelf Fungus Diversity and Tree Health at the Morgan Arboretum

  The importance of shelf fungi in the St-Lawrence lowlands Polypores (also known as Shelf fungi and Bracket fungi) are found across North America, anywhere woody plants are present (Gilbertson, 1980). They usually grow on fallen logs, stumps, dead branches and even living trees whose bark has been breached and begins to decay (Roberts and […]

The characteristic black cap and bib make Black-capped Chickadees easy to identify

Chickadee Abundance in Response to Human Presence at the Morgan Arboretum

Appearance and Identification: Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) are well-known songbirds, loved by everyone due to their adorable appearance and curiosity. They have a distinctive black cap and bib, contrasting with their white cheeks. Their sides are buff colored and the feathers of the wings and the tail are gray with paler edges. They molt every […]

Many different species collected during this study

Spider Diversity at the Morgan Arboretum

Follow us on Twitter: @SpidersMcgill Natural History of Spiders Arachnida is an extensive class of arthropods recognized mainly by their eight legs, lack of antennae and carnivorous lifestyle, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica Online (2015). This class encompasses scorpions, mites, daddy long legs and spiders. Spiders belong to the order Araneae, which includes over 114 families […]

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Wild Ginger Within the Morgan Arboretum

Wild ginger is an understory perennial that grows up to 6 inches tall at maturity. It springs from an underground network of rhizomes and forms dark green, heart-shaped leaves about 3 inches in diameter. The clonal growth forms a mat of wild ginger that covers the ground, which prevents other seedlings from growing within the […]

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Fungi and Invertebrates of the Morgan Arboretum

Background Fungi are incredibly diverse and provide irreplaceable services for the ecosystem and for us. They range from single-celled yeasts to vast networks of hyphae, the filamentous strands that make up fungi (Waggoner and Speer, 1998). Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of many fungi; they produce and release spores as a method of reproduction. The […]

One of the types of mosses we see when strolling through the Morgan Arboretum.

Bryophytes of the Morgan Arboretum

Introduction Moss, lichen, liverwort; we see these tiny plants every day, but do we ever stop to really think about them? For our natural history research project, we decided to learn more about these plants, also referred to as bryophytes. It was this curiosity that lead to our research question, which is: In what forest […]

Three small red-backed salamanders from the Morgan Arboretum.

Variation in the abundance of the red-backed “soil-amander”-Amphibians of the Morgan Arboretum

Introduction Nature is full of environmental and biological interactions. Some well-known, like how temperature and precipitation determine vegetation in different environments. Others are less obvious, and require keen observation to see. Last month, in the Morgan Arboretum, we looked at one of these subtle changes: how changing soil types affect the presence and abundance of […]

Click Beetle Larva, one of the many invertebrates found under bark at the Morgan Arboretum

Bark Bugs: Saproxylic Invertebrates in the Morgan Arboretum

Invertebrates are a broad category of animals characterized by the lack of a backbone. Surprisingly and most often unknown is the fact that invertebrates amount to a staggering 95%-99% of all animal species (Encyclopedia of Science, 2002). This assorted group includes insects, spiders, crustaceans, and mollusks, all of which are also ectothermic (cold-blooded). Such a […]

Turkey tail fungi growing on a log in the Morgan Arboretum

Turkey tail fungi: Nature’s recycling enthusiasts

Turkey tail fungi are found in mixed-wood forests on every continent except Antarctica. Known as Trametes versicolor to natural scientists, these fungi are admired for the colourful concentric ring pattern on the cap (or ‘pileus’) of their fruiting bodies. These fungi are in the order Polyporales meaning they have multiple openings known as pores under […]

Figure 5: Various species of earthworms found in St. Bernard soil.

The Abundance of Earthworms with Human Activity

Introduction We are McGill university undergrad students studying environmental biology. In the course St. Lawrence Ecosystem (ENVB 222), we will be conducting a research project geared at evaluating earthworm abundance in the Morgan Arboretum. To expand on the data collected by researchers in last year’s class, we chose to further study earthworms, but in relation […]

Figure 6: Demonstration of the sifting methods.

Critters in the Litter

Arthropods are a successful group of invertebrate animals; they are members of the phylum Arthropoda, which is known to be the largest phylum in the animal kingdom. The distinguishing feature of Arthropods is the presence of a jointed external skeleton composed of chitin, a nitrogen-containing sugar (Barnes,2014). Furthermore their body is divided into distinct parts, […]

A squirrel’s drey, or tree nest, built on top of a beech tree in the Morgan Arboretum.

Squirrel Nests in the Morgan Arboretum

Squirrels are mammals that belong to the Sciuridae family, which is included in order Rodentia (rodent) (Macdonald 2009). They are among the most common and widespread mammals and are found in almost all regions of the world, excluding the arctic, Madagascar and desert areas. These large-eyed, bushy-tailed, diurnal (active during the daytime) animals are relatively […]

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Walnut Trees and Plant Species Diversity

Natural History of The walnut trees In North America, some of the most common members of the Juglandaceae family are Juglans cinerea and Juglans nigra, otherwise known as the Butternut or White Walnut and the Black Walnut or American Walnut respectively. These trees are found throughout eastern North America, and prefer deep, moist, fertile soils […]

Potential staring contest between two red-backed salamanders!

Salamanders of the Morgan Arboretum

Welcome fellow salamander enthusiasts! Some of you may already be familiar with our Twitter page (@MacSalamanders), if not, we are a group of four undergraduate students from McGill University (Montreal, QC) conducting a research project on salamanders. Salamanders and newts are amphibians within the Caudata order and belong to the Salamandridae family and Pleurodelinae subfamily, […]

Beech that shows nuts and leaves

Beech Bark Disease

The American Beech Tree The American Beech, by its scientific name Fagus grandifolia, is a deciduous tree native from Nova Scotia. F. grandifolia holds an important role in forestry since its nuts constitute an element of the diet of several species, including humans. Furthermore, due to its hard, heavy and strong wood, Beech trees are […]

Figure 2. A Barred Owl rests in a conifer at the Arboretum. This species enjoys coniferous and deciduous woods.

Bird Diversity at the Morgan Arboretum

Birds come in a wide variety of species, each with its own distinctive colours, calls and behaviours. While some birds’ lifestyles cause them to enter in direct competition with others, such as two species competing for the same nesting sites, other groups may avoid such conflicts by adapting to different food sources and habitats. In […]

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Salamanders: their natural history and our research

Salamanders belong to the Caudata order. Along with Anura (frogs) and Gymnophiona (caecilians), they belong to the Amphibian group (Bishop 1943). Salamanders are often confused with lizards because of their similar body form but they lack scales. Instead salamanders have moist glandular skin that is permeable to water and unlike frogs, they have tails and […]


Meet the Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

Kingdom : Plantae Order: Sapindales Family: Sapindaceae Genus: Acer Species: A. plantanoides A species native to Europe, the Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) is a deciduous tree now commonly found throughout the St. Lawrence Lowlands, including McGill University’s Morgan Arboretum. In appearance, the Norway Maple is quite similar to other trees of the genus Acer, including […]


Pileated Woodpecker whereabouts in the Morgan Arboretum

Research Question In order to to investigate where the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is predominantly found within the Morgan Arboretum and whether they have a preference in area or tree they target, we asked ourselves the following question. “Is the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) more active (excavate more trees) in certain parts of the Morgan […]

Spindle-shaped yellow coral (Clavulinopsis fusiformis)

Coral and Tooth Fungi

Tooth and coral fungi are both broad categories of taxonomic classification of fungi based on physical characteristics. In fact, years of observations have shown that species in these categories are not necessarily closely related. Coral fungi, or clavarioid fungi, have coral-like elongated structures. They are rather difficult to identify due to the resemblance between many […]

Natural history of White-tailed Deer

The Northern Woodland White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus ssp. borealis) is a species of deer found throughout Quebec, including the St. Lawrence Lowland region (Bernhardt et al. n.d.). Its name comes from the white underside of its tail, which can be seen when the deer is alarmed (Rue 2004). Within the St. Lawrence region, white-tailed deer […]

Left: Beech tree with Neonectria fungal colonization. Right: Beech tree with severe bark loss.

Beech Bark Disease in American Beech Trees (Fagus grandifolia)

Identification of an American beech tree (Fagus grandifolia): Beech trees can be found in upland areas of a mature deciduous forest. The identification of a beech tree can be done year round with the use of five criteria appearing continually or seasonally: Bark Beech trees stand out by their thin, smooth, grey bark. Leaf The […]

Figure 9) The amount of earthworms gathered in one of our holes

Distributions of earthworms in the Morgan Arboretum

With earthworms getting more attention as they make their way into once earthworm-free forests, it was surprising to find that there had been no past research done on the distribution of earthworms in the Morgan Arboretum. Due to the limited amount of time, we took this opportunity to target the St.Bernard soil series (one of […]

Sanguinaria canadensis: (L) leaves (C) root (R) yellowing leaves

Medicinal Plants

Medicinal plants have been used to treat an array of illnesses dating back thousands of years. It is not known exactly who discovered that plants have medicinal properties, but scriptures describing their uses, written around 3000 B.C. by the Egyptians and Ancient Chinese, have been discovered (Ehrlich 2013). Researchers have shown that, throughout time, indigenous cultures […]


Winter adaptations of the Black-Capped Chickadee in the St-Lawrence Lowlands

Black-capped Chickadees, Poecile atricapillus, are year round songbirds native to North America.3 Their habitat ranges from the Maritimes up to Alaska, covering 2/3 of Northern and Central United States.3,4. Living in flocks of four to twelve birds, Chickadees can be seen in different habitats such as orchards, deciduous and coniferous woodlands, cotton wood groves, parks […]

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Does location within the forest affect leaf colour change in Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)?

Acer saccharum, commonly known as the Sugar Maple, is a deciduous tree native to North America. Its genus ‘’acer’’ is latin for maple, and its species name ‘’saccharum’’ comes from the Greek word “sakcaron” meaning ‘’sweet juice distilled from bamboo’’ or simply ‘’sugar’’. (Acer saccharum 2013). This tree is probably most well known because its […]


Natural History of the St. Lawrence Lowlands

This blog is the result of a University class at McGill University, as part of the program in Environmental Biology.  One of the objectives of this course is to explore the natural history of the St Lawrence Lowlands, including forest ecosystems such as the Morgan Arboretum.   Different groups of students prepare and publish blog […]


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