225-year-old Windsor sycamore recognized as Ontario Heritage tree

A once-controversial sycamore that towers over a lot on Roseland Drive in Windsor has been officially designated as an Ontario Heritage Tree.

Some sycamore trees have reportedly lived for 500-600 years

A tiny black plaque is now fixed to it, recognizing the leafy giant as an Ontario Heritage Tree. 0:49

There's something new about the 225-year-old towering sycamore that spreads shade across a lot on Roseland Drive.

A tiny black plaque is now fixed to it, recognizing the leafy giant as an Ontario Heritage Tree.

"Two hundred years ago where was Canada?" asked Toni Ellis from Forests Ontario. "It was here about 50 years before the founding fathers met in P.E.I. so that really tells you how much we've changed and how amazing it is that this tree is still standing."

A Sycamore tree that has stood on Roseland Drive West for more than 200 years, has officially been designated as an Ontario Heritage Tree. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The sycamore, with its distinctive smooth, scale-like bark, dominates the lot next to a rental property owned by Andre Abouasli. When he bought the lot about four years ago, the tree was actually part of the allure, he said.

"It's beautiful, historic, the kids love trees," he said as his two children chased each other around its thick trunk.

Although the tough-barked tree has stood the test of time it was almost taken down in 2012 when a former landowner wanted to take an axe to it. At the time, city staff stepped in to suggest it be saved as a heritage tree, a position Abouasli was more than happy to make official Monday.

"It's five times older than we are," he said. "How could we not keep that going?"

At one point an owner of the property wanted to cut down the 22-year-old tree as he felt it was a nuisance and too costly to clean up after. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

About three years ago, Stefan Fediuk, Landscape Architect for the City of Windsor, was tasked with trying to find out just how old the broad-branched beast was. They started by counting the rings on tree branches, but soon discovered that wouldn't be an easy task. 

"We lost count at 120, and that's off a branch," he explained. "At that point we realized that tree had been there a lot longer than we had expected."

Still, the double-centenarian is relatively young, at least compared to some other sycamores.

"It has a fair amount of life left," said Fediuk, who added some of the species have been reported to live 500-600 years.

Seeds from the 225-year-old "survivor tree" will be used to plant others across Ontario in an effort to pass along its good genetics. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Ellis referred to the ancient sycamore as a "survivor tree" and said it will now be placed on a map so people from across Ontario will be able to find it. Some of its seeds may also be used to pass along its "stellar" genetics, she added.

"It's very historically significant … it's among the largest trees in Windsor and it's very remarkable because of the community's efforts to save this tree," she said.