McMaster University recognizes that the University and surrounding Hamilton area, including their nature spaces, are situated on traditional territories shared between the Haudenosaunee confederacy and Anishnaabe nations. These lands are protected by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum belt. The wampum uses the symbolism of a dish to represent the territory, and one spoon to represent that the people are to share the resources of the land and only take what they need.
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McMaster Forest is a Hamilton hidden gem that is a vital ecological hub for the Dundas Valley. McMaster Forest is located within the Spencer Creek Watershed: Ancaster Creek Subwatershed: Lower Valley Catchment Areas. Learn more about the properties flora and fauna and numerous ecological zones.

Important Bird and Diversity Area (IBA) – Bird Studies Canada
• Dundas Valley and Dundas Marsh (ON005)
Niagara Escarpment Plan Area Designation – Niagara Escarpment Commission
• Natural Area and Protection Area
Life Science Area of Natural Scientific Interest (ANSI) – Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
• Ancaster Creek Valley – Regional Significance
Significant Woodlands – City of Hamilton
Greenbelt Protected Countryside – City of Hamilton
Local Natural Area, Environmentally Significant Area – City of Hamilton
Dundas Valley Environmentally Significant Area – Hamilton Conservation Authority
Area of environmentally significant natural land, to be used for ecologically sensitive teaching, research and recreation purposes – McMaster University
McMaster Research and Conservation Corridor – McMaster University

McMaster Forest Flora and Fauna

McMaster Forest is home to over 1000 recorded species, with more and more species identified every year. This leads to a high species diversity of plants, insects, and birds. See how many different species you can spot next time you visit the property!

Log your observations on iNaturalist and see what fellow naturalists have observed!


Ecological zones (ecosites) are defined areas in a landscape that have specific plant and animal communities and environmental conditions. McMaster Forest is home to 17 different ecosites (as of the 2011 survey), which helps to maintain the high species diversity, and environmental health of the property. While hiking on the trails, see if you can distinguish each zone!

Old Growth Forest

Old growth forests are areas of intact forest that have never seen logging. Old growth Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), and Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) on the property are some of the largest and tallest recorded in the province.

Deciduous Forest

Some characteristic species found in deciduous forests include Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), and Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana).

Mixed Forest

Some characteristic species found in mixed forests include Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), and Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus).

Shrub Thicket

Some characteristic species found in shrub thickets include Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.), Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa), Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), Black Raspberry (Rubus occidentalis), and American Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis).


Some characteristic species in woodlands include a canopy of Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), Butternut (Juglans cinerea), and Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), with an understory of forbs and graminoids. Woodlands are characterized by 35 – 60% canopy cover and savannas are characterized by 25 – 35% canopy cover.

Tallgrass Prairie

Some characteristic species found in tallgrass prairies include Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).

Graminoid Meadow

Some characteristic species found in graminoid meadows include Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis), Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata), Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), and Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea).

Forb Meadow

Some characteristic species found in forb meadows include Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), Grass-leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus), and Common St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum).

Mineral Marsh Meadow

Some characteristic species found in the mineral marsh meadow include Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata), Elecampane (Inula helenium), American Cornmint (Mentha canadensis), Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), and Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota).