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Summer in Toronto

Insects

Summer in Toronto

Birds

Summer in Toronto

Wildflowers

Summer in Toronto

Trees, Shrubs and Vines

Summer in Toronto

Fruits

Summer in Toronto

Black Swallowtail

The Black Swallowtail is a familiar sight to gardeners as it flits above flower beds seeking nectar sources, or as females hover over fennel, parsley or dill food plants looking for places to lay their small yellowish oval eggs. When alarmed caterpillars perform a threat display in which they flick out a forked orange coloured organ called the osmeterium from the top of their head.

Description: Males and females look very different: females are most likely to be confused with other swallowtails, notably the female Spicebush. Mature caterpillars have green bands that alternate with yellow-spotted black bands.

Habitat: Wildflower meadows, fields, and open woodland; Frequents gardens in urban areas.

Wingspan: 70 - 90 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Papilio polyxenes

Summer in Toronto

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Toronto's most common swallowtail, with large yellow wings sporting black stripes, and a "tail" on each hind wing. The female lays her large round yellowish-green eggs on leaves of larval food plants, including cottonwoods, willows, cherries and birches. Overwinters as a chrysalis that resembles a dried curled leaf.

Description: Adults have large yellow wings sporting black stripes, and a “tail” on each hind wing. The caterpillar is green at maturity with a swollen head bearing colourful eyespots that mimic real eyes.

Habitat: Observed in many habitat types, including parks, woodland openings, and roadsides.

Wingspan: 80 - 140 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Pterourus glaucus

Summer in Toronto

Orange Sulphur

Usually yellow, but some individuals can be orange with distinct black wing borders. Larval host plants are legumes, including the introduced forage crops clover and alfalfa. Sometimes Orange and Common sulphurs hybridize when they co-occur at high densities.

Description: Bright yellow and orange butterfly. strikingly patterned with black in males, and grey in females. Underwing plain yellow with spots. Often co-habits with the Common Sulphur and looks similar, but upper surface of wings darker than the Common Sulphur. Bouncy, erratic flight, and rarely alights for long.

Habitat: Fields, meadows, roadsides.

Wingspan: 40 - 60 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Colias eurytheme

Summer in Toronto

Clouded Sulphur

Pale lemon butterfly. Perhaps our most abundant Sulphur in Ontario.

Description: Pale lemon butterfly. Upper surface of wings has a solid black border in males, whereas females have yellow spots in a grey border.

Habitat: Fields, meadows, roadside verges.

Wingspan: 50 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Colias philodice

Summer in Toronto

Cabbage White

This butterfly will be familiar to any vegetable gardener. It has become a pest in some situations since being accidentally introduced near Montreal from Europe 150 years ago.

Description: White, with one (male) or two (female) rounded black spots on dorsal forewing. In flight looks white, but up close you will see the underwing has a pale yellow tinge.

Habitat: Fields, meadows, vegetable gardens.

Wingspan: 50 mm

Adults: May - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Pieris rapae

Summer in Toronto

Monarch

Big and beautiful, the Monarch has vivid orange wings with black veins and black borders that are spotted with white. Colourfully striped caterpillars eat the leaves of Common Milkweed. The thick milky sap of the food plant contains compounds that make the caterpillars unpalatable to predators. The chrysalis is a pale luminous green spangled with gold. The last brood in Fall is migratory. Monarchs congregate at Great Lakes shoreline areas where they feed on wildflower nectar before migrating south, en route to Mexican wintering grounds.

Description: Large, conspicuous orange butterfly. Wing margins and veination is black giving a distinctive pattern. Upperwing is deep orange, underwing is paler orange. Sexes can be distinguished by close examination of the hindwings. Males have two black spots on the hind wings which are used in mating. Males also tend to have less vein pigmentation than females and so look lighter.

Habitat: Fields, meadows with host plant Common Milkweed.

Wingspan: 120 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Danaus plexippus

Summer in Toronto

Question Mark

The Question Mark belongs to a group of butterflies known as the “angle wings”, which are characterized by the notched appearance of the wings in profile. Females do not necessarily lay their eggs on the larval food plant, and on hatching, caterpillars must find their way to the host--often a nettle or elm. The butterflies prefer to sip tree sap, and juices from fermenting fruit and even carrion. Adults from the fall brood hibernate and overwinter.

Description: This species produces summer and fall broods which have different hindwing colouration: the hindwing is orange, smudged with black in the fall brood; while in the summer brood it is mostly dark. The forewings of both broods are deep burnt orange with black spots. The white mark on the underwing looks like the punctuation mark that the common name is derived from. The chrysalis is coloured in shades of brown and dull green, and resembles a dry curled leaf.

Habitat: Woodland openings, parks, gardens, and orchards.

Wingspan: 60 - 70 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Polygonia interrogationis

Summer in Toronto

Eastern Comma

Adults which have hibernated under tree bark emerge in early spring as soon as tree sap starts flowing. They will perch in sunny spots to warm up.

Description: Burnt-orange butterfly with irregular wing outline. Derives its common name from a scrawly white line on the wing underside which looks like a punctuation mark. When they emerge in early spring, the adults are tattered and their hind wings are relatively pale. The summer form has dark brown hind wings.

Habitat: Woodland, gardens.

Wingspan: 70 mm

Adults: March - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Polygonia comma

Summer in Toronto

Red Admiral

The Red Admiral, one of our most common butterflies, has an extremely broad global distribution. Chrysalises and adult butterflies are able to survive the winter in areas with milder climates. It is doubtful that the Red Admiral is able to withstand Ontario's cold winters, and more likely that migrating butterflies from the south arrive in the province each spring. Nettles are the most important larval food plant. Mature caterpillars live inside a tent constructed of leaves stuck together with silk threads. The preferred food of adult butterflies is tree sap and juices from ripe fruit.

Description: Black butterfly with red bands forming a diamond shape and white dots towards the fore-wing margins. Recognized by the broad orange band that divides the dark upper surface of the forewing, and by another orange band at the margin of the hindwing. The is a complex pattern of browns and is cryptic. Adult flight is fast and appears very haphazard.

Habitat: Adapted to a wide variety of habitats in city, country, and wilderness, particularly fields, meadows, forest edges, and gardens

Wingspan: 45 - 55 mm

Adults: April - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Vanessa atalanta

Summer in Toronto

Common Wood Nymph

Adults are often found perched in trees where they feed on sap. They also feed on the juices from rotting fruit. Caterpillars feed on grasses, such as Kentucky Bluegrass. Hibernates as a caterpillar.

Description: Wings are a mouse brown with prominent eyespots. Slow-flying.

Habitat: Woodlands, fields, marshes. Widespread.

Wingspan: 50 - 70 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Cercyonis pegala

Summer in Toronto

Summer Azure

Adults feed opportunistically on a wide variety of flowers. The caterpillars eat flowers.

Description: Small, dainty butterflies; powdery blue, even almost white in females.

Habitat: Woodland clearings, glades and edges; fields and roadsides.

Wingspan: 20 - 35 mm

Adults: July - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Celastrina neglecta

Summer in Toronto

European Skipper

This lively orange butterfly darts about grasses with an erratic flight. Females lay their eggs in the stems of their preferred larval food plants, Cocksfoot and Timothy grass, in late summer and the eggs overwinter. Accidentally introduced from Europe to London, Ontario in 1910, the European Skipper is now common and widespread.

Description: Burnt orange butterfly. Up close you can see the tips of the antennae are curved into pointed hooks, a characteristic of the Skipper family.

Habitat: Grasslands, meadows, roadside verges.

Wingspan: 20 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Thymelicus lineola

Summer in Toronto

Red Lily Beetle

Native of Eurasia, it has recently invaded Ontario. It is a serious pest that attacks plants of the lily family. The adults overwinter on the ground under dead leaves and they emerge in early spring. Larvae feed on lily leaves. They often get covered with sticky frass that helps conceal and protect them. Adults have some interesting behaviours when threatened by an enemy. The first escape response is to freeze and then drop off the plant to remain motionless on the ground. If this doesn't work and they are grabbed, they try to startle their attacker by making a sudden squeaking sound.

Description: Adults are bright red with black legs, head and underparts. Larvae are usually black.

Habitat: Found on lilies, their host plant.

Length: 8 mm

Adults: April - June

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Lilioceris lilli

Summer in Toronto

False Blister Beetle

These beetles are often encountered on early the flowers of spring ephemerals such as hepatica and trout lily where they feed on the pollen and congregate for mating. Although not “true” blister beetles (which secrete a toxic chemical called cantharidin), false blister beetles do secrete a fairly nasty chemical in self-defense.

Description: Small, elongate beetles with a red thorax that, on close inspection, is bumpy. Larvae burrow into rotten wood.

Habitat: Woodland and wood edges.

Length: 2 cm

Adults: April - May

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Asclera ruficollis

Summer in Toronto

Green Stink Bug

Adults feed on plant juices of a variety of hosts including trees and commercial crops. They overwinter in leaf litter and become active in early spring when temperatures are above about 15°C. When disturbed they discharge a foul-smelling liquid from glands on the underside of the thorax.

Description: Adults are bright green. Distinctive angular shape has been called “shield-like”. Young nymphs are striped black and white, and only attain green colouration as adults.

Habitat: Found in leaf litter in early spring.

Length: 15 mm

Adults: April - August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Chinavia hilaris

Summer in Toronto

Common red soldier beetle

This beetle has been accidentally introduced from Europe, and has only recently invaded Toronto, but has quickly become widespread and quite common here. Adults visit summer meadow flowers, including Queen Anne's Lace and Goldenrod, and feed on pollen and nectar. Adult beetles will also feed on aphids. The adults live just one summer, and spend most of it mating. The larvae are soil dwellers where they prey on invertebrates. Larvae overwinter in the soil for a year before emerging as adults.

Description: Orange-brown beetle with long antennae. The tips of the wing-covers (elytra) are black. These beetles have a flattened, elongate body shape.

Habitat: Meadows, old fields, gardens.

Length: 25 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Rhagonycha fulva

Summer in Toronto

Pennsylvania Leather-wing

One of the commonest types of Soldier Beetle of which there are several hundred species. Adults feed on pollen and nectar of Goldenrod flowers. Larvae are predatory on other insects and considered useful as biological control for grasshoppers.

Description: Orange beetle, with two prominent brown “eyes” on the wing covers (elytra).

Habitat: Goldenrod flowers in fields and meadows.

Length: 25 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus

Summer in Toronto

Milkweed Beetle

One of only a handful of species that can feed on milkweed plants. Milkweed beetles avoid the sticky latex by severing the latex tubes in the leaf upstream of where they are feeding on the leaf. Adults emerge in early summer after pupating in an underground chamber. Adults held gently in the fingers will make a squeaking sound, and they also communicate with purring sounds.

Description: Bright red beetle with black spots and elongated antennae.

Habitat: Common Milkweed plants in fields and meadows.

Length: 15 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Tetraopes tetrophthalmus

Summer in Toronto

Seven-spotted Lady Beetle

Adults and larvae are very effective predators of aphids and scale insects. Adults will also eat pollen if preferred prey is scarce. The bright orange colours and spots act to deter predators (aposematic warning colouration). Adults have other ways to avoid predation; they will “play dead”, and if threatened they can also secrete a foul-tasting chemical from their leg joints that is distasteful to potential predators.

Description: Relatively large lady beetle with seven black spots on the elytra (wing covers), and a white spot on each side of the head. Larvae are black.

Habitat: Gardens, woodland edge. Most habitats, especially vegetation with aphids.

Length: 7 mm

Adults: April - June

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Coccinella septempunctata

Summer in Toronto

Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle

Introduced from Asia as a biological control agent in agricultural crops. Adults and larvae are effective predators of aphids; larvae can eat over one thousand aphids each day during their development. Adults will also feed on grapes if preferred prey are scarce, and they can spoil wine.

Description: This lady beetle has quite variable colour markings, but four black spots on the face look like the letter “M ”. Full-term larvae are bright yellow and orange and sport an armoury of bristles.

Habitat: Gardens, fields, woodland.

Length: 6 mm

Adults: June - December

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Harmonia axyridis

Summer in Toronto

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

Adult Tiger Beetles are active predators and usually prefer to hunt in sunny, sandy sites for a wide variety of prey, including ants, spiders and grasshoppers. The larvae live in an excavated burrow, and feed by ambushing passing prey such as spiders. The larvae pupate in the burrow and then as adults dig themselves out to emerge in early spring.

Description: Metallic green beetles with long legs and relatively large eyes. There are six white blotches around the end of the abdomen. Sprint along on the ground, but will fly if pressed.

Habitat: Sandy trails, sunny open sites.

Length: 12 mm

Adults: June - September

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Cicindela sexguttata

Summer in Toronto

Scarlet-and-green Leafhopper

This striking leafhopper with a pointed head feeds by sucking plant juices from leaves and stems of a wide variety of shrubs, including raspberry. When disturbed, it is capable of “hopping” 50 cm or more to safety.

Description: Streamlined leafhopper with a pointed head. Wings are bright red with blue (or green) stripes.

Habitat: Found on wildflowers in meadows, gardens and woodland.

Length: 9 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Graphocephala coccinea

Summer in Toronto

Meadow Spittle Bug

The frothy bubbles in the axils of plant stems is a shelter made by the wingless nymph stage which hides inside while it feeds on xylem sap. Adult Spittle Bugs are also called “froghoppers” for their ability to jump up to 70 cm (or seventy times their own bodylength).

Description: True bugs with sucking mouthparts which they pierce plant stems with. Adults are usually mottled brown. Young are green and they develop as miniature wingless adults (nymphs) inside the frothy bubbles.

Habitat: Found on goldenrod, clovers and brassicas in meadows and gardens.

Length: 7 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Philaenus spumarius

Summer in Toronto

Large Carpenter Bee

Aptly named, the first sign of Carpenter bees may be neat, circular holes about 1 cm in diameter which they drill into dry standing wood. They build chambers inside the tunnels for their overwintering sites and nest cells. Males are territorial and guard their nest chambers stocked with pollen and nectar for the larvae.

Description: Large blue-black bee which looks like a bumblebee, but closer examination reveals a thorax that has a “bald patch” where there is no hair, and the abdomen is bare (whereas bumblebees have hairy abdomens). Slow, somewhat erratic fliers.

Habitat: Fields, woodland edge.

Length: 25 mm

Adults: May - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Xylocopa virginica

Summer in Toronto

Common Eastern Bumble Bee

Eastern bumble bees are important pollinators of commercial crops, especially greenhouse tomatoes and sweet peppers. Bumblebees effect pollination in tomatoes by sonic vibration, also known as buzz pollination. A bumblebee will land on the flower, and vibrate its thoracic wing muscles to create sound vibrations at a frequency which expels pollen.

Description: The single yellow stripe at the top of an otherwise black thorax is diagnostic.

Habitat: Fields, woodland edge, backyards.

Length: 25 mm

Adults: June - November

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Bombus impatiens

Summer in Toronto

European Paper Wasp

This slender wasp, with smokey brown wings and two-tone antennae has become quite widespread in Toronto since it was first recorded here in 2001. The queen emerges from hibernation in spring, builds the initial nest and lays an egg in each cell, then tends the first brood herself.

Description: Slender wasp, with yellow and black patterning. Wings smokey brown. Antennae bi-coloured. Long-legged especially noticeable in flight when hind legs dangle.

Habitat: Dry meadow, fields, backyards.

Length: 25 mm

Wingspan: 50 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Polistes dominulus

Summer in Toronto

German Yellowjacket

Yellowjackets are predatory wasps that hunt caterpillars, spiders, and flies to provision their larvae with. Adults mostly feed on plant sap and nectar. Queen wasps emerge in late spring to start a new colony. Their numbers remain low until late summer.

Yellowjackets are predatory wasps that hunt caterpillars, spiders, and flies to provision their larvae with. Adults mostly feed on plant sap and nectar, but in late summer when the nest colonies are burgeoning, workers are unwelcome guests at picnics as they scavenge for meat and sugary drinks.

Description: Stocky, black and yellow wasp with short, black antennae. German Yellowjackets have three dots on the face, and arrow-shaped marks down the middle of the abdomen.

Habitat: Fields, gardens.

Length: 14 mm

Wingspan: 30 mm

Adults: June - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Vespula germanica

Summer in Toronto

Field Cricket

Black, robust cricket which has an oversized, helmet-shaped head. Crickets are usually heard rather than seen. Adult males sing day and night in late summer and early fall. Females lay eggs in early fall, the eggs overwinter in the ground and hatch the following spring. The juveniles are miniature versions of the adults and take at least three months to reach maturity.

Description: Female crickets sport a long, curved ovipositor. Males sing two types of songs: a long-range calling song which is to attract females, and a courtship song given when a female is near. The calling song is a series of chirps given at a frequency that is partly influenced by ambient temperature, and which has been described as sounding like “breep-breep-breep”.

Habitat: Common in dry meadows, fields, roadsides.

Length: 20 mm

Adults: July - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Gryllus pennsylvanicus

Summer in Toronto

Japanese Beetle

Adult beetles gather in clusters on food plants to feed and mate. They have strong chewing mouthparts and will devour leaves, flowers and fruits of a wide range of wildflowers, shrubs and trees, especially plants in the Rose family.

Description: Adults are oval, with a metallic green and copper body, and bronze wing covers (elytra). Larvae, which feed and overwinter underground, are white grubs with a characteristic C-shape.

Habitat: Woodland, gardens.

Length: 10-12 mm

Adults: -

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Popillia japonica

Summer in Toronto

Dogday Cicada

The characteristic loud buzzing song of the male cicada is a sure sign of summer. On a hot day, the tree canopy can resound with the calls of thousands of males hoping to attract a female for mating. The mated female lays eggs in crevices in the branches and trunks of trees. The larvae move to the ground, burrow into the soil, and remain there for 13 - 17 years. When they finally emerge again, the nymphs moult their skin and become adults.

Description: Green edges to front half of the wings. Up close a distinctive green pattern on the thorax. Normally heard rather than seen in late summer when the adult males sing.

Habitat: Fields, woodland edges.

Length: 30 mm

Adults: July - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Tibicen canicularis

Summer in Toronto

European Praying Mantis

Adults are ambush predators on butterflies, grasshoppers, caterpillars and flies. They hunt by perching motionless, long forelegs folded up ready to strike, and wait to snare prey in the spines on their forelegs.

Description: Green to brown colouration provides excellent camouflage and they are difficult to spot unless forced to fly. The European mantis has a distinctive field mark, a black spot on the inside of the front leg.

Habitat: Sunny open habitats, fields, meadows.

Length: 60 mm

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Mantis religiosa

Summer in Toronto

Green Metallic Bee

These strikingly coloured bees are a type of sweat bee, so named because they are attracted to the salts in perspiration. But don't be alarmed if they land on your skin as they are docile; the males cannot sting, and the females will only sting if really provoked. Usually seen on flowers where they feed primarily on pollen.

Description: Small bee with iridescent green thorax and a black and white striped abdomen.

Habitat: Fields, meadows.

Length: 12 mm

Adults: May - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Agapostemon virescens

Summer in Toronto

Great Golden Digger Wasp

Females hunt for crickets and grasshoppers, paralyze them and carry them back to nest chambers which have been excavated in sandy soil. They lay an egg in the paralyzed host; when the egg hatches the larvae feeds on the cricket. Adults feed on nectar and are usually seen at flowers. They are solitary.

Description: Pending

Habitat:

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Sphex ichneumoneus

Summer in Toronto

Common Green Darner

Our largest common dragonfly, usually seen flying quite slowly and patrolling open meadows, hunting for wasps, butterflies and mosquitoes. Likes to perch vertically on tall wildflowers. Prior to fall migration, swarms at parks along the waterfront.

Description: Thorax is green. Adult males have a bright blue abdomen; females and immature males have a brown abdomen. Up close the face has a distinctive pattern.

Habitat: Ponds, slow-moving streams, meadows.

Wingspan: 100 mm

Adults: April - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Anax junius

Summer in Toronto

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Males are strongly territorial and vigorously chase other males. They like to perch on a stick inclined over water.

Description: Slender, with unmistakeable wing pattern of black and white patches. There are three dark brown spots on each wing; males also have two white spots per wing (females and immatures do not have the white spots) Abdomen is blue-brown with a pale yellow stripe down each side.

Habitat: Prefers sunny, open shoreline of ponds and lakes.

Wingspan: 100 mm

Length: 50 mm

Adults: July - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Libellula pulchella

Summer in Toronto

Eastern Forktail

These small, dainty damselflies are usually observed flying slowly amongst tall vegetation at the edge of ponds. Long curved spines on the front legs are used to snare flying insect prey. They return to perch, and efficiently dismember their prey with toothed jaws.

Description: Males are a bright yellow, Females are usually orange.

Habitat: Ponds.

Wingspan: 40 mm

Adults: July - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Ischnura verticalis

Summer in Toronto

Ebony Jewelwing

Our largest damselfly, usually found in wet woodlands near streams. Individuals will venture into the edge of woodland to catch mosquitoes. Males are territorial and watch for females from favourite perches. Their acrobatic courtship display includes a flight routine in which the male flaps each wing independently.

Description: Wings are black but the body looks metallic green in bright light. Female has a white spot (“stigmata”) at the tip of each wing.

Habitat: Prefers slow-moving streams.

Wingspan: 80 mm

Adults: July - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Calopteryx maculata

Summer in Toronto

Common Whitetail

Often seen flying over ponds and meadows. Sexually dimorphic. Males have distinctive pale blue abdomen.

Description: Sexually dimorphic. Males have distinctive pale abdomen. Females have a brown-patterned abdomen, edged with yellow markings.

Habitat: Ponds. Slow-moving rivers.

Length: 70 mm

Wingspan: 80 mm

Adults: July - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Libellula lydia

Summer in Toronto

Mute Swan

The Mute Swan is a large graceful white bird that was introduced to North America in the late 1800’s for ornamental purposes in parks and gardens. Birds escaped from captivity and their progeny spread up the northeastern seaboard of the United States. The first report of feral Mute Swans breeding in Ontario dates from 1958. By about the mid-1970’s, it was well established in Ontario, along the lower Great Lakes. Favourable habitat conditions have allowed its continued spread to inland lakes, marshes and rivers in southern Ontario. Its habit of “raking” the bottom while feeding has a negative effect on aquatic plants that are sources of food for some species of native waterfowl.

Description: The Mute Swan is a large, white, long-necked species of waterfowl. Adults are distinguished from other white swans by a black knob at the base of its orange bill, and by the sinuous curve of its neck. Males and females are difficult to distinguish except in breeding season when the knob of the male becomes enlarged. Juveniles are grey, moulting to white in late winter. Winter juveniles can also be identified by their pinkish beak. Chicks, called cygnets, may have greyish buff down, or they may be a dull white shade.

Habitat: Mute Swans inhabit a wide variety of aquatic habitats including lakes, ponds, marshes, rivers and estuaries.

Length: 150 cm

Wingspan: 240 cm

Weight: 10 kg

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Cygnus olor

Summer in Toronto

Trumpeter Swan

Aptly named for the loud bugling call that adults give. Until about thirty years ago, Trumpeter swans were rare in Ontario and not seen in Toronto. Concerted captive breeding has now restored small local populations and pairs have started to breed in the wild. Captive-raised swans can be identified by yellow uniquely-numbered tags that are inserted in the patagium skin of the wing. Both adults construct a large nest structure from reeds. The cygnets appear on the water by July. They hatch with a light grey downy, and then moult into a juvenile plumage. They can fly in six weeks.

Description: The largest of the three white swan species that can be found on Toronto's waterfront in winter. The distinctive black beak helps distinguish it from the Mute swan (which has an orange beak). The Tundra swan, an infrequent visitor to Toronto, has a yellow patch at the base of the beak, but this can only be seen close-up. Immature birds are light grey.

Habitat: Lakes, large ponds.

Length: 160 cm

Wingspan: 250 cm

Weight: 12 kg

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Cygnus buccinator

Summer in Toronto

Canada Goose

The characteristic V-shaped flocks of these large, easily recognized and highly vocal birds are known to virtually all Canadians. Unlike Canada geese in far northern parts of their range, Toronto’s flocks are “non-migratory.” Some flocks remain close to the waterfront, while others “commute” from Lake Ontario, where they spend the night, to foraging areas in urban parks and other grassy areas, or farm fields on the outskirts of the City.

Description: Males and females look alike, but males are about 10% larger, on average. This is a large, distinctive, plump brownish bird with a long black neck, and a black head with a white chin and cheeks. The call is a loud, pleasant honk. The chicks (goslings) hatch with a covering of natal down feathers that are striped gold and black and which helps camouflage them in the grassy margins of ponds and wetlands. The juveniles are grey and white, not the white and black of the adults.

Habitat: Lakes, ponds and coastal marshes. In our area they are often seen grazing on grass in parks, and along the edges of ponds and other moist places.

Length: 110 cm

Adults: January - December

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Branta canadensis

Summer in Toronto

Mallard

The Mallard is the most abundant and widespread duck in the world. This species belongs to the group of “dabbling ducks” that feed in shallows, either at the surface, or by tipping the anterior body underwater, leaving the tail end sticking up above the water. Mallards also feed on land and have adapted very well to urban environments. This species hybridizes with other dabblers, including Black Ducks and Pintails. Native to the north temperate zones of North America and Eurasia, it has been introduced to some southern hemisphere countries as a game bird. It is considered to be the ancestor of most domesticated ducks.

Description: Male in breeding plumage has a glossy green head, white collar and a dark brown front, with a bright yellow beak. Females are mottled brown and difficult to distinguish from females of some other dabbling duck species such as Gadwall and Black Duck. Both sexes have a blue wing patch (speculum) with white borders.

Habitat: Marshes, ponds and lakes, large rivers, urban parks.

Length: 40 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Anas platyrhynchos

Summer in Toronto

Ring-billed Gull

The familiar “seagull” of carparks and inland waters. Toronto gulls are well habituated; in carparks they will perch on light standards and watch for discarded human food to scavenge. Tommy Thompson Park on the waterfront now supports one of the largest gull nesting colonies on the Great Lakes.

Description: Crow-sized white bird. Adults have yellow legs, webbed feet, narrow, pointed grey wings and a yellow beak with a black band at the tip (hence the name). Immature gulls are mottled grey and light brown and do not attain the full adult plumage for several years.

Habitat: Freshwater, especially lake shores. In urban areas can be found in car parks and garbage dumps.

Length: 47 cm

Weight: 550 grams

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Larus delawarensis

Summer in Toronto

Downy Woodpecker

This inquisitive little black and white bird is our smallest and most abundant woodpecker. The Downy Woodpecker is a frequent visitor to bird feeders in parts of Toronto that have some tree canopy, and it is often observed hopping up tree trunks as it searches for larvae and spiders hidden under the bark. In early spring, males can be heard “drumming” on dead branches, posts, even. They are signalling ownership of a territory, hoping to attract a female mate.

Description: Male and female Downy Woodpeckers have black and white striped heads, but only the male has a small red band on the back of his head. The short bill distinguishes this species from the similar, but larger, Hairy Woodpecker.

Habitat: Downy Woodpeckers have adapted well to urban areas with open wooded habitats for nesting and foraging. They are attracted to patches of goldenrod, as this plant’s numerous galls contain larvae which are a rich source of food. Visits backyard bird feeders in winter.

Length: 15 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Picoides pubescens

Summer in Toronto

Rock Pigeon

Familiar pigeon of parks and streetscapes. At a food source, pigeons will quickly fill their crop, a distensible pocket in the oesophagus, then fly up to a safe perch where they slowly digest the meal. Can breed year-round, building a simple stick nest on building ledges.

Description: Grey pigeon with iridescent green head and pinkish front, short pink legs and small head. Much individual variation, but most birds have a white patch on the lower back and two black bands on the wings.

Habitat: Urban. Visits bird feeders.

Length: 20 cm

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Columba livia

Summer in Toronto

Mourning Dove

The Mourning Dove is a common bird in our area and is often observed perching on wires, sunning itself on lawns, or pecking for seed on the ground in small groups. This delicate looking dove with a long tapering tail and gray-brown plumage is easily recognized by its mournful cooing call and by the whistling sound its wings make as it becomes airborne. Mourning doves can be attracted to backyard bird feeders with seeds such as millet, black oil sunflower seeds and cracked corn.

Description: This slender, small-headed bird has a classic dove shape. The basic body colouration is subdued browns and grays. The tail is long and pointed, and the outer feathers are rimmed with white. The wings have a small number of black spots, and there is a single spot under the ear.

Habitat: Forest edge, old field and urban. Visits bird feeders. Mourning doves are birds of edge habitats. They occur both in agricultural and urban settings, and prefer open brushy and weedy areas with a small number of trees.

Length: 25 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Zenaida macroura

Summer in Toronto

Northern Cardinal

Cardinals will stay together in pairs all year, and keep in contact with loud click calls. Male song (females sometimes sing also) consists of loud, repeated whistles, and you can hear it at any time of year. A common visitor to bird feeders, where they use their deep conical-shaped beak to easily crack sunflower husks and then eat the seed.

Description: The unmistakeable bright red plumage and crest of the male cardinal contrasts with the more subdued female colouration. The red hue to the feathers is due to carotenoid pigments derived from the diet.

Habitat: Forest, woodland, gardens.

Length: 22 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis

Summer in Toronto

European Starling

Starlings are human commensals, thriving in urban areas. Starlings hunt for bugs in the soil and litter layer of grassed areas, such as lawns, sports fields and sidewalks verges. They use a technique called “gaping” in which the beak is thrust into the sward and forced open to expose bugs hiding inside. Starlings are hole-nesters, building a coarse nest bowl inside any suitable cavity. They have even started nesting inside the hollow precast hydro poles now replacing the old wooden poles. Pairs can raise two, sometimes three, broods between May and October. In winter, starlings feed in flocks, and at dusk gather in large, communal roosts.

Description: Robin-sized black bird. Starlings have a bustling gait, and appear to “strut” as they walk rather than hop. In spring and summer, sharp yellow beak, short tail, and shiny purple-black plumage. Young starlings are light brown, and nosiy as they trail their parents demanding food. By late summer, starlings have moulted into their white speckled winter plumage, and their beaks are black.

Habitat: Urban, including playing fields, farmyards. Visit bird feeders.

Length: 15 cm

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris

Summer in Toronto

Black-capped Chickadee

A favourite of backyard birdwatchers, chickadees are confiding and in winter can easily be trained to take food by hand. In fall, birds will store hundreds of seeds in holes and crevices throughout their woodland range. Later in winter, they can remember each cache and retrieve them! In winter chickadees are often seen in mixed species flocks along with nuthatches and woodpeckers.

Description: Sparrow-sized woodland bird with a chubby body and an oversize head that gives it a chick-like appearance.

Habitat: Forest, especially deciduous and mixed woods, but also parkland and urban gardens. Visits bird bird feeders.

Length: 8 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Parus atricapillus

Summer in Toronto

House Finch

A native of western United States, House Finch became established in New York from escaped cage birds, and have gradually expanded their range north. Their song is a beautiful, elaborate melody. Males begin to sing in March.

Description: Male has red on head and front, female is streaked brown. Much individual variation.

Habitat: Garden parks, suburban backyards. Will visit feeders in winter.

Length: 13 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Carpodacus mexicanus

Summer in Toronto

American Crow

The only large all-black land bird that you are likely to see in Toronto (the other is the double-crested cormorant which is a water bird). In flight, broad wings have a ragged wing-tip appearance due to wing slots. The loud “caw” call is distinctive, and is given loudly and repeatedly, especially when chasing enemies such as the Red-tailed hawk. Crows are smart birds that live year-round in family groups. They are omnivores, often seen feeding on road kill.

Description: Large black bird with a robust beak. Up close, you can see dense bristles covering the nares (nostrils). Broad wings with prominent wing slots.

Habitat: Open habitat, especially open fields with scattered woods, and agricultural land. Urban.

Length: 50 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos

Summer in Toronto

Blue Jay

A familiar bird of suburban backyards where they are noisy and conspicuous most of the year. In winter, Blue Jays live in mobile flocks of males and females, adults and immatures. These flocks will descend on backyard bird feeders and chase off other birds. In the Fall, Blue jays will hide acorns and peanuts in caches that they memorize the location of, so they can re-find in winter. Gives a range of loud calls, including bell-like calls. In March, the winter flocks break up into smaller courtship groups usually consisting of two females and a number of adult and young males. Eventually, pairs form and nesting begins. Young males may not breed in their first year.

Description: Distinctive, medium-sized blue and white bird with a prominent blue crest. Males and females look alike. Relatively short, rounded wings and a flap-and-glide flight.

Habitat: Forest, especially forest edge, but inhabits wide range of habitats with trees including backyards, where in winter it visits bird feeders.

Length: 25 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata

Summer in Toronto

House Sparrow

The familiar sparrow of city sidewalks and backyards. Usually live in small, noisy flocks which get bigger in winter as families coalesce. Primarily a seedeater, but in the breeding season it feeds nestlings with insects, and gardeners sometimes despair of sparrows browsing the tender shoots of vegetables.

Description: In summer the sexes are easy to distinguish; male has a chestnut back, pale grey front and a black throat, female is paler and does not have a black throat. In winter, males still look a little darker but they do not have a prominent black throat patch.

Habitat: Urban, including farmyards. Visits bird feeders.

Length: 12 cm

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Passer domesticus

Summer in Toronto

American Goldfinch

Goldfinches are strict seedeaters, preferring to perch on the seedheads of thistles and sunflowers. In flight, they give a “tinkling” call, their flight is bouncy and undulating, and their wings flash black and white. Some goldfinches stay in Toronto over winter and they will visit hanging feeders.

Description: In summer, this sparrow-sized yellow bird is understandably mistaken for a canary, especially the males in their bright yellow breeding plumage and black cap and wings. The female is pale yellow and does not have a black cap. In early Fall, goldfinches undergo a complete moult of their feathers and males and females both look a uniform olive-yellow.

Habitat: Old fields and urban parkland. Visits bird feeders.

Length: 11 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Carduelis tristis

Summer in Toronto

Killdeer

Although classified as shorebirds, Killdeers are not restricted to beaches, and have adapted very well to a variety of dry open habitats in urban settings. They hunt visually, with a characteristic stop-start movements as they search the ground for invertebrates to snatch with their short beak. These ground-nesting birds are known for their distinctive “broken wing” display in which adults feign injury to lure people and predators away from nests and chicks. They are named after one of their easily recognized high-pitched calls which is considered to sound somewhat like “Killdeer”.

Description: These tall plovers have a brown back, white under parts, and a white breast with two black bands. The rust-coloured rump and upper tail are visible in flight.

Habitat: Open habitat, especially roadsides and fields, often far from water.

Length: 25 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Charadrius vociferus

Summer in Toronto

Common Grackle

This bold, iridescent black bird struts around on lawns and open areas. The bright yellow eye is distinctive. Males have a much longer tail than females. Grackle song is loud and has been likened to a squeaky clothesline. Grackles migrate back to the City by late March. They pair and start nesting within a week or two of arrival. They prefer to nest in conifers.

Description: Robin-sized iridescent green-black bird with a long slightly down-curved beak and a bright yellow eye. In flight, the long, wedge-shaped tail is distinctive. Up close, female is browner and smaller than male. Juveniles are grey-brown; similar colour to juvenile starlings.

Habitat: Open habitat, especially parks, near marshes and gardens.

Length: 22 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula

Summer in Toronto

Red-winged Blackbird

Male blackbirds arrive at ponds and marshes in mid-March to set up their territories. Females join them a few weeks later and choose a mate based on the quality of the territory. Males with the best territories may have two or more mates. A marsh with a large colony of nesting blackbirds is a busy, noisy place.

Description: Males are black with a bright red shoulder patch (epaulet) that is edged with yellow. Males use the epaulet as a signalling badge, and can expose or conceal it depending on the context. The female is heavily-streaked brown and blends well with dried cattails, their favoured nesting habitat.

Habitat: Freshwater, especially cattail marshes, but also old fields and roadsides. Visits bird feeders in early spring.

Length: 15 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus

Summer in Toronto

Song Sparrow

This sparrow is aptly named for its loud, pleasant summery song, consisting of high pitched notes succeeded by trills. The Song Sparrow shows considerable variation in colour and pattern throughout its widespread range in North America (and northern Mexico). In general, it can be described as a medium-sized sparrow with a brown back and brown-streaked white underparts. In our area this adaptable bird is most likely to be seen in edge habitats, and shrubby fields in early stages of succession, often near water. A mated pair typically builds a small, cup-shaped nest in a well-hidden location on the ground, but Song Sparrows may also nest in shrubs or small trees.

Description: The adult Song Sparrow’s white breast and flanks are darkly streaked with brown. A small dark blotch is often present in the centre of the breast. Juveniles have a lesser degree of streaking. Both adults and juveniles have brown backs. A tail that “pumps” up and down in flight is a characteristic feature of this sparrow.

Habitat: Wet thickets, old field. Shrubby habitats near ponds or marshes are favoured.

Length: 16 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Melospiza melodia

Summer in Toronto

American Robin

A common sight in gardens and especially on lawns where the Robin hunts for earthworms which it detects mainly by sound. Hunting birds will pause and cock their heads to listen. Males are well-known songsters, and they sing from before dawn in spring, with another burst at dusk.

Description: Plump, grey bird with a rust-coloured breast and relatively long tail. Up close, yellow beak and white eye-ring contrast with the dark head. Female has sightly more subdued colouring than the male. Young Robins are speckled brown, and usually naiive and rather too confiding.

Habitat: Familiar bird of suburban lawns. Forest, especially forest edge, open woodlands, parklands, backyards.

Length: 15 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Turdus migratorius

Summer in Toronto

Brown-headed Cowbird

Resembles a chunky version of the Red winged Blackbird, but has a distinctive, almost finch-like, conical beak. An obligate brood parasite of smaller songbirds, especially Yellow Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo.

Description: Male has the brown head. Male will sing from a prominent perch such as the top of a power pole. Song is a liquid whistle which has affinities with some notes of the red-winged blackbird.

Habitat:

Length: 10 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Molothrus ater

Summer in Toronto

Yellow Warbler

The common resident warbler in Toronto. Favours woodland edge habitat. More likely to be heard singing, than to be seen. They can be lured out to the edge of the vegetation with squeaky “pishing” sounds. Males are strongly territorial and will chase intruders aggressively.

Description: Bright yellow warbler with a fine forceps-like beak. Up-close, males have reddish streaks on the breast, whereas females are uniform pale yellow.

Habitat: Prefers dense edge habitat

Length: 10 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Dendroica petechia

Summer in Toronto

Chimney Swift

Fast-flying aerial insectivore, their twittering often heard in the early evening. Arrive back in Toronto in late spring and roost communally for several weeks before pairing up. Construct a nest on the interior of old chimneys.

Description: pending

Habitat: Aerial insectivore.

Length: 15 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Chaetura pelagica

Summer in Toronto

Gray Catbird

Noisy, yet shy; will call and sing from the deep cover of dense shrubbery. In addition to a long, rambling melodic song, gives wheezy sounding calls, some of which sound like a cat.

Description: Light grey with a long tail. The black head cap is prominent.

Habitat: Swamps, thickets.

Length: 20 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Dumetella carolinensis

Summer in Toronto

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorants are large colonial waterbirds that dive underwater in search of small fish, propelling themselves with strongly webbed feet. During these dives their feathers become very wet as they do not produce enough preening oil to waterproof themselves. They can often be seen perched beside the water after fishing forays, with wings spread out to dry. Cormorants have relatively small wings for their body size and must taxi for some distance when taking off from the water. But once airborne, cormorants are capable of flying fast and very high in their loose V-shaped flocks.

Description: Double-crested Cormorants are long necked, goose-sized, black waterbirds that have a narrow hooked bill, and an orange facial patch of bare skin. They sit low on the water’s surface with head tilted up. In flight the neck appears slightly bent.

Habitat: Freshwater, especially large lakes and rivers. Widespread in coastal areas, estuaries and sizable inland water bodies in North America and Mexico. Water bodies with adequate populations of fish are the primary requirement. Perching sites in trees, or on man-made structures such as docks, are also important.

Length: 80 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Phalacrocorax auritus

Summer in Toronto

Barn Swallow

Barn swallows are aerial insect eaters, sometimes congregating in clouds above wetlands to hawk mosquitoes. In flight you can make out their deeply-forked tail; males have longer outer tail feathers than females. Barn swallows spend most of their time on the wing, but go to ground in the nesting season to collect mud. They build a mud cup nest and affix it to walls and under eavestroughs of buildings, and under bridges.

Description: Adults have dark blue upperparts; females have white underparts and males have reddish underparts. Both sexes have a dark orange throat. The tail is long and forked; when fanned a band of white spots is obvious.

Habitat: Near water.

Length: 16 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Hirundo rustica

Summer in Toronto

Eastern Kingbird

Kingbirds are aerial insectivores. From a lookout perch they sally out to snatch a passing insect such as a dragonfly. They will also hover in front of a plant and glean prey.

Description: A dark grey flycatcher, smaller and slimmer than the Robin, with white front, a triangular-shaped head and a white band at the end of the tail which is obvious when it fans its tail.

Habitat: Open habitat, especially grassland, old fields with hedgerows.

Length: 17 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Tyrannus tyrannus

Summer in Toronto

Tree Swallow

Fast, agile flier that ambushes aerial insects, and spends much of its time in the air. Nests in tree cavities, and readily uses nestboxes near wetlands.

Description: Sparrow-sized iridescent blue-green bird with white underparts, narrow pointed wings and weakly-forked tail.

Habitat: Found above freshwater, especially lakes and ponds with adjacent woodland.

Length: 13 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Tachycineta bicolor

Summer in Toronto

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Our smallest bird, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is only seen in Toronto in spring as it migrates through the city north, and again in late summer again en-route back south to Central America. During both migration periods it pays to put out a sugar-water feeder for them. Hummingbirds feed on flower nectar, but also eat insects, especially the females during the nesting season.

Description: Females are a little larger than males and lack the bright scarlet throat patch.

Habitat: Open woodlands, gardens, parks, especially where flowers grow. Visits nectar feeders.

Length: 9 cm

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Archilochus colubris

Summer in Toronto

Garlic Mustard

Named for the strong garlic scent of its crushed leaves, this plant has escaped gardens, invaded woodlands, and now threatens to displace native wildflowers.

Description: Tall plants with a white cluster of flowers at the top. The leaves, when crushed, smell like garlic. A biennial wildflower. Seeds germinate in early spring and form a basal rosette plant first year with a taproot. In a mild winter, remains green and grows slowly. In second year produces a flowering stalk. Seedpods form up stem. A single plant can produce thousands of tiny seeds.

Habitat: Grows in a variety of soils and light levels, but prefers moist, shady or semi-shade, such as along woodland trails, forest edge.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: May - June

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Alliaria petiolata

Summer in Toronto

Canada Anemone

The large parabolic-shaped flowers are heat-traps and help insects warm up on cool days. Prefers moist, shady sites where it spreads by rhizomes and can form impressive clumps.

Description: Single, white flower per stem. Large leaf is compound shape and surrounds the stem. Fruit is an achene.

Habitat: Prefer moist, open sites, but will grow in partial shade.

Height: 30 cm

Flowering: June - July

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Anemone canadensis

Summer in Toronto

Dandelion

The bright yellow flower quickly transforms to the familiar fluffy “ball” of seeds which disperse in the slightest breeze. Introduced from Europe, it readily colonizes disturbed habitats and lawns.

Description: Leaves are basal and flattened with a characteristic toothed shape. Beautiful yellow flower sits on top of long stalk. One of the earliest flowers in spring. The flower quickly transforms to the familiar fluffy “ball” of seeds which blow away in the slightest breeze.

Habitat: Open, disturbed land, including mowed areas.

Height: 20 cm

Flowering: April - September

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Taraxacum officinale

Summer in Toronto

Dame's Rocket

Introduced from Europe, Dame's Rocket produces huge numbers of seeds and it is invasive in Toronto woodlands.

Description: Each stem is covered in clusters of 4-petal flowers making it a very distinctive and attractive plant. Flower colour is highly variable, even within a plant; and it can vary from white to pink to purple. Leaf margins are toothed, and leaves alternate up the stem. Fruit is a thin seedpod, typical of the Mustard family.

Habitat: Open, sunny areas, but will tolerate light shade and can be found in woodlands.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: May - June

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Hesperis matronalis

Summer in Toronto

Wild Columbine

Wild Columbine usually grows as single plants scattered throughout wooded slopes and rocky areas. Each flower petal tapers to a spur filled with nectar which attracts bumblebees and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

Description: Perennial wildflower. Delicate plant, with lovely lobed leaves, said to be shaped like an eagle's claw (hence genus name derived from Latin word for eagle). The orange-red flowers are sent up on tall spikes and droop downwards like bells. Long tube-like petal spurs contain nectar which bees and hummingbirds harvest. Fruits are long seedpods that dry and split down one side to release many tiny, black seeds.

Habitat: Prefers light shade at the edges of woodland, and sandy soils rather than rich humus soils.

Height: 25-50 cm

Flowering: May - June

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Aquilegia canadensis

Summer in Toronto

Virginia Water-leaf

Often associated with sugar maple forests, where it can form dense ground cover. Light mottling of the leaves is characteristic and resembles water-spotting.

Description: Showy white or light violet flowers droop down and look “hairy” with the stamens hanging out of the petal tube.

Habitat: Deciduous woodland understorey.

Height: 50 cm

Flowering: May - June

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Hydrophyllum virginianum

Summer in Toronto

Ox-eye Daisy

Introduced from Europe, this large daisy thrives in tough places. The white “petals” vary in number and are actually individual ray flowers. Plants give off a pungent, unpleasant smell if stems are crushed.

Description: A close look at the “” reveals that it is composed of many small flowers, and two types of flowers at that: the white “petals” are ray flowers and the yellow centre is packed with disk flowers.

Habitat: Open sunny habitats, especially dry meadows, abandoned fields, roadsides.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: June - September

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Chrysanthemum leucanthemum

Summer in Toronto

Daisy Fleabane

Well-named, because each plant is topped with many small daisy-like flowers that consist of 50 to 150 rays that are usually white or sometimes a very pale pink. This plant was dried and then burned to fumigate the pioneer houses against bugs.

Description: Leaves alternate up the plant stem which is covered in fine hairs. Daisy-like flowers usually white, but colour can range to dark pink.

Habitat: Fields, roadsides. Sunny locations.

Height: 70 cm

Flowering: June - August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Erigeron annus

Summer in Toronto

Evening bulbous green

The flowers open in the evening when their fragrance attracts moths. The stem and base of the flower is covered in sticky hairs, and often accidentally snares small insects.

Description: Flowers have rounded, deeply-notched petals.

Habitat: Fields, meadows, roadsides.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: June - September

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Silene latifolia

Summer in Toronto

White Sweet Clover

White Sweet Clover has been grown as a honey plant by beekeepers in North America since the mid-1800's. Beginning in the early 1900's it was planted extensively for soil improvement, slope stabilization, livestock and wildlife forage, and to provide cover for nesting waterfowl.

Description: White sweet-clover has many long slender clusters of tiny white nectar-producing flowers.

Habitat: Fields, roadsides, widespread in disturbed areas.

Height: 50 - 200 cm

Flowering: June - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Melilotus alba

Summer in Toronto

Common Yarrow

Pungent flowers and feathery leaves reported used for medicinal and food purposes from Middle Ages through to present. North American Indian tribes used yarrow to treat illness. Seed set requires pollination by insects such as small flies and skipper butterflies. Offshoots arise from creeping rootstalks.

Description: Small white or sometimes pink flowers are arranged in flattish clusters (corymbs) at the tops of stems. Leaves are delicate and finely dissected.

Habitat: Open, sunny areas. Widespread, mostly in disturbed areas with poor soils.

Height: 20 - 50 cm

Flowering: June - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Achillea millefolium

Summer in Toronto

Queen Anne's Lace

In winter, the familiar white flat-topped umbel of summer dries into a seedhead with a basket-like arrangement. The feathery leaves at the base die back, leaving just the flowerstalk and seedhead. Seeds are eaten by wildlife.

One of the most abundant flowers of disturbed sites. The delicate flower heads consist of many tiny white flowers clustered in a flat-topped “umbel.” The central flower is often purple. Umbels are characteristic of plants in the carrot-parsley family, to which this species belongs. Seeds are eaten by wildlife. Several plants that closely resemble this one have poisonous alkaloids and are very dangerous to eat.

Description: As flowers age and become dry seedheads, the umbel becomes curled-up at the edges, and is said to resemble a bird's nest.

Description: Tall, robust plant with feathery leaves, characteristic of the Carrot Family. Flower is a cluster (umbel) of small white flowers delicately arranged in a flat-topped arrangement. As flowers age and become dry seedheads, the umbel becomes curled-up at the edges, and is said to resemble a bird's nest.

Habitat: Dry meadows, roadsides, abandoned, disturbed land.

Height: 30 - 100 cm

Flowering: July - September

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Daucus carota

Summer in Toronto

European Forget-me-not

Pending

Description: Small, low-growing bushy plant. Flowers blue with yellow centre in clusters on end of short stem.

Habitat: Prefers lightly shaded, moist areas, such as edges of marsh, stream-side.

Height: 50 cm

Flowering: May - June

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Myosotis scorpioides

Summer in Toronto

Orange Day-lily

The Orange Day-lily is a popular garden plant that has become naturalized in the wild. Its spectacular flowers are short-lived and shrivel up within one day of opening. The flowers point upward.

Description: Long strap-like leaves form dense cover when plants grow in clumps. Bright orange flowers are sent up on tall stalks.

Habitat: Dry, sunny sites, especially gardens, roadsides, disturbed sites. Invades woodland and forms dense clumps.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: June - August

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Hemerocallis fulva

Summer in Toronto

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Clusters of intense yellow flowers brighten up roadsides and other open habitats in summer. Narrow spreading seed pods resembling the toes of a bird give it the name "Bird's-foot trefoil". Leaves have five leaflets. Introduced to North America as a honey plant, and as forage for livestock. Largely self-incompatible, and requires bumblebees and honeybees for pollination.

Description: Perennial wildflower which grows in clumps and can form dense mats. Distinctive leaves warrant closer examination to see the three clover-like leaflets and two more separate at the base.Bright yellow flowers have the swollen petals typical of the Pea family. Fruit is a pod which resembles a bird's foot.

Habitat: Open, sunny habitats, especially roadsides, abandoned fields.

Height: 60 cm

Flowering: June - August

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Lotus corniculatus

Summer in Toronto

Butter-and-eggs

The Yellow Toadflax, also known as “butter-and-eggs”, was introduced into North America from Europe as an ornamental plant in the 1800s. An old name, "Rancid", refers to the toxic juice which makes it unsuitable as forage. Pollinated by larger bees strong enough to push past the lips. Pollination also reported by long-tongued butterflies and skipper butterflies.

Description: Tall, erect plant. Tall spike-like stems carry long-spurred flowers resembling snapdragons that are butter yellow with egg yolk orange "lips". Leaves grass-like. Small winged seeds are wind-dispersed. Underground rhizomes spread to form large colonies.

Habitat: Open, sunny areas such as roadsides, waste land.

Height: 50 cm

Flowering: July - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Linaria vulgaris

Summer in Toronto

Common St. John's Wort

Loose clusters of yellow flowers are borne at the ends of numerous leafy stems. An historic name-"Touch-and-heal"-reflects the healing properties attributed to this plant. The medicinal compound hypericin is extracted from glands which look like black dots on the petals and leaves. Unsuitable as a forage plant owing to the bitterness of the foliage.

Description: Erect plant with small, narrow leaves. Flowers yellow, 5 thin petals widely spaced in a star-like arrangement. Look closely for the black dots on edges of petals.

Habitat: Open, sunny habitats, especially disturbed areas and pastures.

Height: 30 - 80 cm

Flowering: July - August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Hypericum perforatum

Summer in Toronto

Yellow Goat's Beard

Looks like a giant dandelion, but closer inspection reveals sheath-like leaves up the stem, rather than a basal rosette. Flowers orient towards the sun and follow it, before closing in the afternoon.

Description: Green bracts are shorter than the ray petals.

Habitat: Open, sunny areas such as old meadows, roadsides.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: June - July

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Tragopodon pratensis

Summer in Toronto

Field Sow-thistle

Tall, dandelion-like herb usually with hairy upper stems (lower stem portions are smooth) and hairy base of flowers (and hairy buds). Perennial (hence alternate common name, perennial sow-thistle), with rhizomes.

Habitat: Open, sunny areas such as old meadows, fields, roadsides.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: June - August

Scientific name: Sonchus arvensis

Summer in Toronto

Chicory

The zig-zag stem is studded with the small dried remains of the flowers.

Chicory's beautiful blue flowers close by early afternoon. This plant is cultivated for its tap root which is roasted and ground for use as a coffee substitute, and as a flavour enhancer for some beers. Very young basal leaves are eaten raw in salads. Members of the chicory family are known for their milky and often bitter juices.

Description: Erect plant, sparsely leaved. The stem is zig-zaggy, giving the plant a gangly, somewhat straggly appearance. The basal leaves resemble those of Dandelion. A biennial, the second-year plant produces light blue flowers which have serrated ends to the petals.

Habitat: Open, sunny habitats, especially dry meadow, roadsides, waste areas.

Height: 30 - 100 cm

Flowering: June - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Cichorium intybus

Summer in Toronto

Cow Vetch

Dense clusters of small, violet-blue flowers have abundant nectar that attracts bees and butterflies. In southern Ontario, it is a larval food plant for two species of butterfly: Eastern Tailed Blue and Common Sulphur.

Description: A sprawling or climbing plant with tendrils and numerous slender-tipped leaflets. Slightly hairy stems. Flowers grow in spike-like inflorescences. Flower has the characteristic petal morphology of the Pea family with a large upper petal (“banner”), two small side petals “wings”, and a lower petal (the “keel”) which acts as a landing platform for visiting insects. On being touched, ripe pods burst and eject seeds.

Habitat: Open, sunny areas such as meadows, roadside, disturbed areas.

Width: 60 - 100 cm

Flowering: June - September

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Vicia cracca

Summer in Toronto

Viper's Bugloss

Grown by oilseed producers for its small rough-coated nutlets containing an oil rich in fatty acids. Limited popularity as a honey plant.

Description: This bristly member of the Borage family has attractive violet blue funnel-shaped flowers with long red stamens. The small flowers are borne in a branched spike arrangement.

Habitat: Open, sunny habitats, especially dry meadow, roadsides. Widespread in disturbed areas.

Height: 30 - 80 cm

Flowering: June - September

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Echium vulgare

Summer in Toronto

Spotted Knapweed

This highly invasive plant establishes large colonies from seed, which is produced in great quantities. Leaves are deeply cleft into narrow lobes. Flower heads resemble those of a thistle, and are composed of numerous tube-shaped pinkish purple florets. A nectar source for honeybees and many native insects. Prized as a honey plant by beekeepers in Michigan. Larval food plant of the Painted Lady.

Description: Flowers resemble thistle, but the wiry stems lack thorns. Forms dense clumps and can be a nuisance on farmland.

Habitat: Fields, roadsides. Widespread in disturbed areas.

Height: 30 - 100 cm

Flowering: July - September

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Centaurea maculosa

Summer in Toronto

Purple Loosestrife

Two hundred years have passed since the first infestations of this highly invasive plant were reported in wetlands near developing ports in eastern North America, where ballast soil containing seeds was dumped. A prolific seed producer, dense stands with matted roots crowd out native wetland species and reduce biodiversity. Programs underway in Canada and the United States to control infestations.

Description: Tall herb with square stems that are reddish colour. This plant has showy pinkish-purple flowers clustered at intervals in long spike-like arrangements.

Habitat: Wetlands, particularly pond edges.

Height: 60 - 200 cm

Flowering: July - September

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Lythrum salicaria

Summer in Toronto

Common Milkweed

By winter, the seedpod halves have dried grey and hard and resemble clam shells. Some still have fluffy seeds clinging to them. The plant stalk provides an overwintering site for larval stage of the Milkweed beetle.

Small, strongly-scented pink or purplish flowers with a complex structure are borne in rounded clusters. Large oblong leaves have fine down beneath. Thick milky juice with toxic properties flows from cuts in leaves and stems. Monarch butterfly larvae eat leaves but are immune to the toxins which make the larvae unpalatable to predators. Honeybees are the main pollinators, although other insects visit the flowers. Warty green pods contain brown seeds with silky "parachutes".

Description: The dried seedpods remain attached to the plant stalk through winter. Pods split open to expose hundreds of small brown seeds which have fluffy silky hairs at one end.

Description: Broken stem and stalks exude sticky, milky sap. are pink, borne in clusters and are fragrant, particularly in the evening. are large and olive green but they get wrinkled and grey as they age. Open a ripe seedpod and hundreds of seeds blow out and float away. Seeds are light brown and have fluffy silky hairs at one end.

Habitat: Open, sunny sites, particularly disturbed land, roadsides, old fields.

Height: 150 cm

Flowering: July - August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Asclepias syriaca

Summer in Toronto

Dog-strangling Vine

Dog-strangling Vine is an aggressively invasive plant. Twining, vine-like, tangled stems wrap around branches and smother other vegetation, reducing biodiversity. Plant parts are unpalatable and possibly toxic to wildlife and livestock. After pollination, the clustered dark purple flowers produce slender pods that contain seeds equipped with silky "parachutes" for wind dispersal. Difficult to eradicate as a new plant can grow from a small root fragment left in the soil.

Description: Narrow unbranched stem with paired leaves regularly spaced. Flowers small, pink borne on terminal of stem in cluster. Distinctive narrow seedpods, seeds are “fluffy”.

Habitat: Open and edge habitats, but colonizes woodland where can form dense stands. Adapted to a wide variety of habitats, including disturbed areas, ravines, stream banks, forests and prairies.

Height: 300 cm

Flowering: June - August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Vincetoxicum nigrum

Summer in Toronto

Red Clover

Introduced from Europe as a forage crop, this legume can grow in very poor soils. It has become naturalized and is common in fields and vacant lots.

Description: Grows taller than white clover, which it often associates with. The leaves normally comprise three leaflets, and have faint banding near their base.

Habitat: Open, sunny habitats, especially fields, roadsides. Also grown as crop.

Height: 50 cm

Flowering: June - August

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Trifolium pratense

Summer in Toronto

Bittersweet Nightshade

This sturdy vine-like plant likes to climb over fences and up branches. The distinctive “swept-back” petals and protruding yellow stamens characterize it as a member of the same family as the tomato and potato.

Description: Petals are purple. Shares with relatives the tomato and potato, the distinctive flowers with petals folded back like flaps and bright yellow anthers hanging out. Fruit is a berry which is first green, but ripens to red. The berries are toxic to humans.

Habitat: Moist, shady sites such as woodland edges.

Height: 75 cm

Flowering: June - August

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Solanum dulcamara

Summer in Toronto

Wild Bergamot

The tubular flowers are visited by hummingbirds and bees and are rich in nectar.

Description: The stem is square-edged and hairy.

Habitat: Prairie, meadows.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: July - August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Monarda fistulosa

Summer in Toronto

Canada Thistle

Actually from Europe, this is our most widespread thistle. Spreads by rhizomes and forms large patches. Butterflies feed on the flower nectar; American Goldfinches eat the seedheads.

Description: Stem is smooth and generally lacks spines. Small pink flowerheads. Seeds are small and light, and wind-dispersed with the help of feathery bristles (pappus).

Habitat: Fields, roadsides.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: July - August

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Cirsium arvense

Summer in Toronto

Bull Thistle

A robust, tall thistle with very thorny leaves and stem. The large, usually single flowerheads are loved by American Goldfinches looking for seeds in late summer.

Description: Stem has formidable spines. Leaves are long and hairy and end in a long spine. Purple flowerheads sit on spiny bracts.

Habitat: Sunny sites in fields, roadsides.

Height: 150 cm

Flowering: July - August

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Cirsium vulgare

Summer in Toronto

Common Tansy

Common Tansy or “Golden Buttons” is a familiar sight along roadsides and sunny walkways. Production of viable seed is mostly dependent on cross-pollination. Tansy is visited by honeybees, flies, butterflies and moths. Tansy contains thujone, which is toxic to humans and livestock.

Description: Numerous deep yellow button-like flower heads composed of tubular florets are borne in flat-topped clusters at the ends of stems. The aromatic leaves are deeply divided and described as “fern-like”.

Habitat: Roadsides. Fields. Widespread in disturbed areas.

Height: 40 - 100 cm

Flowering: July - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Tanacetum vulgare

Summer in Toronto

Common Teasel

The distinctive egg-shaped flower of Teasel persists through winter as dried seedheads. The seeds are eaten by American Goldfinch. Dried flower heads are popular with florists in flower arrangements, and historically were used to card (comb) raw wool, and "tease" or raise the woven surface.

Large spiny bracts curve upwards around egg-shaped flower heads which are densely populated with tiny lavender flowers and hidden spines. Spines remain after flowers die back. Pollinated mostly by bumblebees; flowers also visited by other bees and Pipe Vine Swallowtail. Seeds eaten by American Goldfinch. Dried flower heads used historically to card (comb) raw wool, and "tease" or raise the woven surface.

Description: The distinctive flowerhead looks like a spiny egg and the long spiny bracts which encircle it remain on the plant through winter.

Description: The distinctive flowerhead looks like a spiny egg and is packed with light pink flowers. The long spiny bracts remain on the plant through winter.

Habitat: Roadsides, old fields. Widespread in low, moist areas and disturbed areas.

Height: 50 - 180 cm

Flowering: August - October

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Dipsacus fullonum

Summer in Toronto

Spotted Joe-pye Weed

The showy flowers are mildly fragrant and attract a wide variety of bees and butterflies for both nectar and pollen.

Description: Tall, erect plant with tough leaves that are rough to the touch. Stems are purple and usually spotted. Purple flowers in flat clusters become “hairy” with age.

Habitat: Moist sites, especially marshes, swamps, wet meadows.

Height: 1 m

Flowering: July - September

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Eupatorium maculatum

Summer in Toronto

Creeping Bellflower

Purple flowers usually densely arranged on stems. Grows in clumps. Leaves are heart-shaped with coarse teeth. Will invade sunny woodlands. Bumblebees visit it.

Description: Pending

Habitat: Fields and roadsides. Open woodlands.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: July - August

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Campanula rapunculoides

Summer in Toronto

Common Mullein

The tall dried flowerhead towers over other wildflowers in winter. The spike consists of dozens of small flowers which contain tiny seeds. An alternate name, “candlewick”, speaks to the historic use by Roman soldiers who burned the dried stalks (dipped in fat) as torches.

A striking plant with tall spikes of yellow flowers and large woolly leaves. Reported to be successfully cross-pollinated only by bees. Flowers open for pollination for one day, and, if cross-pollination does not occur, the plant pollinates itself. Individual plants can produce up to 200,000 tiny seeds, depending on conditions. Seeds can remain viable for many decades.

Description: Big plant. Leaves huge and tough with furry surface. Small yellow flowers arranged up a thick, tapering stalk. Biennial. In first year grows as a basal rosette, then in second year flowers.

Habitat: Dry, sunny sites, especially gardens, roadsides. Widespread in disturbed areas.

Height: 30 - 200 cm

Flowering: July - September

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Verbascum thapsis

Summer in Toronto

Black-eyed Susan

Typical of the Daisy family to which it belongs, the flower is actually composed of yellow “petals” which are ray flowers and the dark brown centre (the “eye”) is packed with disk flowers. A biennial or short-lived perennial, it flowers in second season, after a first season as a basal rosette.

Description: Robust plant with large, deep green leaves and tall flower. Leaves and stem hairy. The disk flowers yield the seeds beloved of goldfinches.

Habitat: Open, sunny habitats, especially dry meadows.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: July - August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Rudbeckia hirta

Summer in Toronto

Common Burdock

pending

Flowerheads are prickly and thistle-like. Light pink, small flowers. Leaves are dark green and large. Introduced from Europe.

Description: Pending

Habitat: Open, sunny habitats especially roadsides, abandoned land.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: July

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Arctium minus

Summer in Toronto

Cup Plant

Distinctive square-stemmed, tall plant with leaves which are like sandpaper. The leaves clasp the stem and allow water to collect in the axils.

Description: pending

Habitat: Meadows, old fields.

Height: 250 cm

Flowering: July - September

Scientific name: Silphium perfoliatum

Summer in Toronto

Lance-leaved Coreopsis

pending

Description: Flowers consist of eight petals (actually ray florets) with lobed margins.

Habitat: Sunny meadows.

Height: 50 cm

Flowering: July - September

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Coreopsis lanceolata

Summer in Toronto

Evening Primrose

Long, narrow seedpods split open at the top. Birds, such as Chickadees, will visit fruits looking for seeds.

Description: Spike covered in fruit capsules which curl back at the opening. Seeds are tiny and likely wind-dispersed. A biennial plant, the seedhead represents the second and final year of the plant. In the first year, it grows as a flat rosette of leaves and puts down a tap root for the winter. In summer of the second year, it produces bright yellow flowers.

Habitat: Meadows, roadsides.

Height: 50 cm

Flowering: July - September

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Oenothera biennis

Summer in Toronto

Fringed Loosestrife

This woodland wildflower blooms quite late, well after the canopy has closed, but it tends to grow on the edges of trails and clearings. The yellow flowers are unusual in that they secrete floral oils raher than nectar as a reward for visiting Oil bees (Macropsis nuda ). Look closely at the petal to see the finely toothed edge.

Description: Tall, erect plant. Yellow flowers face downwards, and originate from the leaf-whorls which are evenly spaced up the stalk. Petal has finely toothed edge.

Habitat: Woodland, especially moist areas and swamps.

Height: 100 cm

Flowering: July

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Lysimachia ciliata

Summer in Toronto

Zig-zag Goldenrod

Stem zig-zags. Leaves broad. Prefers moist, shaded sites such as edges of swamps.

Description: In late september, in full flower. The following insects were flower-visitors: german wasp, bumblebee, honey bee, european paper wasp, native paper wasp, bald-faced hornet, potter wasp, big paper wasp sp. (photographed), solitary bee?, ant, hover fly, flesh fly, green bottlefly, locust borer.

Habitat: Swamp edge, open woodlands.

Height: 80 cm

Flowering: August - October

Scientific name: Solidago flexicaulis

Summer in Toronto

Canada Goldenrod

Small yellow flowers are clustered along arching branches in a showy late summer display. Must be cross-pollinated by insects to produce its seed-like "achenes" which are wind dispersed. Pollinators include honeybees, bumblebees, soldier beetles, and hoverflies. Forms large colonies from rhizomes. An important food source for many birds and mammals. Round swellings on stems indicate parasitism by Gall Flies (Eurosta solidaginis).

Description: Perennial plant. Bright yellow mass of flowers actually many small flowerheads, each of which in turn is composed of disk and ray flowers. The plumes tend to droop in an arch. Flowers in late-summer.

Habitat: Widespread in disturbed areas, roadsides and meadows.

Height: 30 - 150 cm

Flowering: August - November

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Solidago canadensis

Summer in Toronto

Turtlehead

Named for the swollen-lobed flowers which resemble the head of a tortoise, the species is the key host plant for the caterpillar of the locally rare Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly .

Description: Creamy flowers in a cluster at the top of each stem have petals which resemble swollen "lips", characteristic of the Snapdragon family to which it belongs.

Habitat: Wet areas, particularly marshes and streambanks in open woodland.

Height: 200 cm

Flowering: August - October

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Chelone glabra

Summer in Toronto

Spotted Jewelweed

The tubular flowers open for two days and are visited by hummingbirds and bumblebees. Seed set depends on cross pollination. The fruit is a capsule which “explodes” when touched, ejecting the seeds several metres away from the plant.

Description: Luxuriant plant with thick, tubular stems which are hollow. Orange, tubular flowers have a pronounced nectary which can only be accessed by large long-tongued bees, and hummingbirds.

Habitat: Open woodland, moist sites such as streamsides.

Height: 150 cm

Flowering: August - September

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Impatiens capensis

Summer in Toronto

Tartarian Honeysuckle

One of several introduced honeysuckles which grow as shrubs in fields and forest edges where they are considered serious invasive plants in southern Ontario because it spreads rapidly, helped by birds such as American Robins, which eat the fruit and disperse the seeds widely.

Description: Large shrub which can grow into thickets. Flowers are tubular and the petal colour varies from white through pink. The flowers are very fragrant. The dark red berries ripen in Fall.

Habitat: Woodland edges, old fields. Invasive.

Height: 3 m

Flowering: May - June

Fruits: August - September

Origin: Introduced

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Lonicera tatarica

Summer in Toronto

Purple Flowering Raspberry

A native shrub with beautiful leaves and rose-like flowers, which grows at the edges of woodlands. The flowers are packed with pollen and attract bees.

Description: Grows as a large bush, often in extensive clumps which form from rhizomes. The canes are not thorny. Older twigs (canes) shed their outer bark in curls which gives the canes an interesting texture. Bright green leaves shaped like maple leaf (hence alternate common name “flowering maple”). The pink flowers resemble rose flowers, and are packed with pollen. Fruit is small and not as fleshy as the edible raspberries.

Habitat: Moist woodlands. Prefers light shade, such as woodland edge.

Height: 2 m

Width: 2 m

Flowering: June - July

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Rubus odoratus

Summer in Toronto

Black Locust

The ivory white pea-like flowers are rich in nectar and are a magnet for bees and flies during the short flowering period. The compound leaf composed of an odd-number of leaflets, and the large seedpods, are a giveaway that this is a legume. Watch out for the pair of short thorns at the base of each leaf stalk.

Description: Grows quickly to a large tree. Bark is grey, deeply furrowed. The drooping pea-like flowers are a give-away that this is a legume. Sharp thorns on branches.

Habitat: Parks, gardens, streetscapes. Planted extensively for erosion control on roadsides.

Height: 12 m

Flowering: June

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Robinia pseudoacacia

Summer in Toronto

Honey Locust

The variety of Honey Locust that is most familiar is the thornless, yellow leaved “Sunburst”. Planted on streets and front yards as an ornamental, most are sterile and do not produce the characteristic dangling seedpods.

Description: Most city specimens are small trees, but the wild-type tree grows to a large specimen. Cultivars planted on streetscapes and available in garden centres are thornless. Wild trees have big thorns. Compound leaf composed of an even-number of leaflets. The bark of the trunk has a very ridged appearance. Flowers greenish-yellow. The drooping chocolate-brown seedpods are a give-away that this is a legume.

Habitat: Planted as an ornamental and shade trees in gardens and streetscapes.

Height: 12 m

Flowering: June

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Gleditsia triacanthos

Summer in Toronto

Little-leaf Linden

Widely planted on Toronto streetscapes as an ornamental tree. The sweetly fragrant flowers are pollinated by insects, especially bees. In summer, aphids attack the leaves, and the honeydew produced by the insects drips profusely off the tree, coating anything beneath in a sticky goo.

Description: Trees planted in the open can grow to large size. Flowers attached to a bract which resembles a maple key and may help the fruit to disperse. Leaves are heart-shaped and the surface is often adorned with curious finger-like projections which are galls caused by mites. Fruit is a pair of round, fairly smooth nuts (faint ridges on close examination).

Habitat: Parks, gardens, and streetscapes.

Leaf length: 5 cm

Height: 20-40 m

Flowering: July

Fruits: September

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Tilia cordata

Summer in Toronto

Multiflora Rose

A white rose introduced from Asia and widely planted for erosion control, but now considered an invasive. The showy flowers are visited by bees and beetles for the pollen. It seeds profusely and spreads rapidly.

Description: A sprawling shrub which can grow quite large. Stems are trailing and thorny. Compound leaves (usually 5-7 leaflets) have distinctive fringe of “stipules ” at the petiole base. Flowers small and white, in clusters. The bright red fruits (hips) are small and persist on the shrub through winter.

Habitat: Prefers sunny sites, but tolerates shade and will grow in woodland.

Height: 200 cm

Flowering: June - July

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Rosa multiflora

Summer in Toronto

Pasture Rose

The showy flowers have lots of pollen which attracts bees, flies and beetles.

Description: Woody, sprawling bush. Beautiful pink flower. delicate, compound leaves. Stems thorny.

Habitat: Prefers dry, poor soils. Forest edge.

Height: 200 cm

Flowering: June - July

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Rosa carolina

Summer in Toronto

Red-osier Dogwood

Bright red twigs stand out in winter.

The flat-topped flower clusters are a magnet for insect pollinators. Berries are eaten by songbirds in the fall. Twigs are flexible, and are used in basket weaving and floral arrangements.

Description: Dense, deciduous shrub. White flowers arranged in clusters at the end of stems. Leaves arranged in opposite pairs along the twig. Prominent veins curve and run towards the tip. Fruits are white berries. Young branches are deep red and are flecked with white.

Habitat: Prefers moist soils, especially the edges of swamps. Invades old fields.

Height: 2 m

Flowering: May - June

Fruits: July - August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Cornus stolonifera

Summer in Toronto

Pagoda Dogwood

In undisturbed forest remnants, the Pagoda Dogwood is the main understorey shrub below a Sugar Maple and American Beech canopy. The mildly fragrant flowers attract native bees and flies. In the Fall, Robins especially feed on the berries.

Description: Small tree, with greenish-yellow bark. Branching is layered horizontally giving a pleasing shape. Unique for Dogwoods, the leaves alternate on twigs (hence another common name is alternate-leaved dogwood). Small, white flowers are arranged in flat-topped clusters. Ripe fruit is black.

Habitat: Understorey tree in deciduous forest.

Height: 5 m

Flowering: May - June

Fruits: July - August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Cornus alternifolia

Summer in Toronto

Staghorn Sumac

The dried fruit are retained on the deciduous shrub all winter.

Description: The twigs and young branches are covered with soft hairs which resemble the velvet stage of deer antlers. The fern-like leaves turn bright reds and oranges in the fall. Often form large groves, as they spread readily by suckers (rhizomes). Broken twigs or leaves exude a milky sap.

Habitat:

Height: 7 m

Flowering: June

Scientific name: Rhus typhina

Summer in Toronto

Common Ninebark

pending

Description: Shrub. Older twigs have distinctive peeling bark. Leaf is triangular with lobed margin. Small, bright white flowers clustered into globe like inflorescences, are short-lived. Spent flowers turn red. Fruit inconspicuous and not attractive to wildlife.

Height: 5 m

Leaf length: 5 cm

Flowering:

Fruits: August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Physocarpus opulifolius

Summer in Toronto

Northern Catalpa

pending

Description: pending

Habitat: Planted as specimen trees in parks and streetscapes.

Height: 15 m

Leaf length: 5 cm

Flowering:

Fruits: August

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Catalpa speciosa

Summer in Toronto

Tree-of-Heaven

Originally from Asia, planted in gardens as an ornamental, and subsequently escaped and has become naturalized in Toronto where it can grow in a wide range of conditions. Fast-growing tree which spreads by suckers (rhizomes) and is hard to control.

Description: As a sapling, growth habit and leaves resemble Staghorn Sumac, but Sumac leaves up-close have serrated edges, whereas they are smooth in Tree-of-Heaven. Flowers Bark

Habitat:

Height: 20 m

Flowering: July

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Ailanthus altissima

Summer in Toronto

Trumpet creeper

pending

Description: pending

Habitat:

Height: 3 m

Flowering: July

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Campsis radicans

Summer in Toronto

Eastern Cottonwood

Cottonwood and poplar trees are trees of open, windy places, and their leaves “flutter” noisily in a breeze. By early summer, the fluffy seeds are being released, and they gather like tidal wrack in pools and puddles. Cottonwoods are classic floodplain species, and the seeds must fall on moist ground to germinate; if they settle on dry ground they quickly dessicate and die. or else they quickly dry up and die.

Description: Tall, columnar-shaped trees with branches at about 45 degrees to the trunk. The leaf shape is like an equilateral triangle, with rounded corners. The flattened, wide leaf stalk (petiole) helps leaves twist rather than bend in a wind. This reduces the chance of the petiole being bent and broken. Flowers are produced before the leaves; male and female flowers on separate trees (dioecious). The fruit are green capsules lined up along a stalk so they look like hanging strands of peas. Fruits dry and open to release the seeds with cottony hairs.

Habitat: An early colonizing tree of tough, sandy sites.

Height: 30 m

Flowering: May - June

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Populus deltoides

Summer in Toronto

White Mulberry

White mulberry is cutivated in Asia as the food plant for silkworms. It was introduced here and has become naturalized. The fruits resemble blackberries, and are favoured by American Robins and raccoons.

Description: Deciduous shrub or tree. A weeping variety is a popular garden ornamental. Glossy leaves are single-toothed. Fruit turns from red to black and resembles blackberry.

Height: 10-20 m

Leaf length: 5 cm

Flowering: May

Fruits: August

Origin: Introduced

Scientific name: Morus alba

Summer in Toronto

Black Raspberry

Fruit.

Description: Shrub. Leaf. Canes. Flower. Fruit.

Habitat: Prefers forest edge and open woodland.

Height: 3 m

Flowering: June

Fruits: July

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Rubus occidentalis

Summer in Toronto

Red-osier Dogwood

Bright red twigs stand out in winter.

The flat-topped flower clusters are a magnet for insect pollinators. Berries are eaten by songbirds in the fall. Twigs are flexible, and are used in basket weaving and floral arrangements.

Description: Dense, deciduous shrub. White flowers arranged in clusters at the end of stems. Leaves arranged in opposite pairs along the twig. Prominent veins curve and run towards the tip. Fruits are white berries. Young branches are deep red and are flecked with white.

Habitat: Prefers moist soils, especially the edges of swamps. Invades old fields.

Height: 2 m

Flowering: May - June

Fruits: July - August

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Cornus stolonifera

Summer in Toronto

Smooth Serviceberry

This small native tree has bright red berries which ripen in the summer, and are eaten by many species of birds, including European Starlings which descend on a bush in small flocks and will strip all the fruit. It is a popular species in City restoration projects, and as a modest specimen tree in front yards.

This small native tree flowers brightly in early spring supporting native pollinators, then produces bright berries in summer which the birds gorge on.

Description: Usually shrubby but in open sites can grow to a small tree. Leaf underside is smooth. White flowers. Red, glossy berries are ripe by July. The leaves turn yellow or reddish orange in the fall.

Habitat: An understorey tree. Planted as specimen trees in gardens.

Height: 4 m

Flowering: April - May

Fruits: July

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Amelanchier laevis

Summer in Toronto

Riverbank Grape

Pending. Songbirds on southward migration in Fall feed on the ripe fruit. Raccoons also favour them as food.

Description: Large, characteristic grape leaves on sturdy stem which can become woody. Has tendrils which help it attach to vegetation. Grows up trees and can form dense blankets. Flowers are tiny, green-yellow in clusters and result in small black berries.

Habitat: Edge habitats, especially moist areas such as stream banks.

Length: 10 m

Flowering: June

Fruits: September

Origin: Native

Scientific name: Vitis riparia

Summer in Toronto

About this guide

This mobile web app guide to common summer plants and animals of Toronto has been created and produced by Hopscotch Interactive.

At Hopscotch, Alejandro Lynch and Mike Dennison have spearheaded the development, design and production of the guide. Artwork and design has been contributed by Hugo Lynch. Research and writing contributions from Irene Bowman.

Creative Commons License

The text of this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Permission to use some images in the guide has been kindly given by Ian Craine.

Please send any feedback or questions about the guide to Mike Dennison, dennison@hopscotch.ca.

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