A program aimed at helping nurture and preserve legacy trees has launched in Waterloo region.

A Bur oak that stands outside St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge is the first local mature tree to be enrolled in the program.

A ceremony was held Friday morning to welcome the 200-year-old tree.

“Trees are champions and heroes,” said Patrick Gilbride with Reep Green Solutions. “Trees provide so many benefits.”

Reep Green Solutions is an environmental charity that brought the program to the region. The organization will help fundraise and review new trees that can later be brought into the trust.

tree trust

The Tree Trust started in 2019 in Elora as a way to preserve legacy trees.

“[Legacy trees] are really important on the landscape,” said Toni Ellis, executive director of Tree Trust. “We’re loosing them because of densification just because they’ve been neglected for years. And yet, they are very very important – from storing carbon to wildlife habitat.”

Students from St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School researched the Bur oak, looking up how to care for it, its characteristics, and what will be needed to protect the tree for generations to come.

“We named the tree Floria and in Latin it means ‘in full bloom.’ It symbolizes a fresh start to make a bright future for all people and nature as well,” said Grade 12 student Nimrah Imtaz.

tree trust

Ellis said legacy trees can help in the fight against climate change. It takes 269 saplings to do the work of one mature tree.

“These legacy trees are carbon store houses. They’ve got tons of carbon stored in their trunk,” Ellis said. “Generally, it’s in the order of ten tons a tree, so it’s a significant amount of carbon.”

Two sapling trees have been planted beside the century old tree at St. Benedict. They’ll eventually take over once the Bur oak goes.