photo of sugar maple leaves turning red photo of young sugar maple leaves

Could We Not See the Trees for the Forest?

Canada’s confederation was back in 1867. However our National Arboreal (tree) Emblem was not chosen until June of 1996. I have asked, "Could we not see the trees for the forest?". The provinces and the territories did not do a great deal better.  It was just in the past twenty years that they got their act together and each chose an arboreal emblem, the latest being when Yukon named the sub-alpine fir.

The Canadian Government chose an entire class of trees to be our National Arboreal Emblem. With the maple leaf featured on our flag, there was no doubt that our emblem had to be the maple (acer) genus.

There are ten species (some have as many as three different names) of maple tree native to Canada. They grow in all areas of the country except the territories.

The sugar maple, an eastern species, may be called hard or rock maple, and is the principal source of maple syrup and sugar. It takes 40 litres of sap to make one litre of syrup. A stylized version of the leaf is on the Canadian flag.

The black or black sugar maple is restricted to southwestern Ontario, with a few scattered along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa River Valleys.

The bigleaf, broadleaf or Oregon maple, is native to Vancouver Island and the coastal mainland. The bark retains moisture and in the warm climate of southern British Columbia, the trunk and larger limbs are often covered with moss, liverwort and fern. Large leaves identify this distinctive species.

The red maple, swamp maple or soft maple, is a common species in eastern Canada. This maple is highly variable and goes by several different names. It also hybridizes with the silver maple causing several intermediate varieties to occur. Young trees provide browse for deer.

The silver maple or soft maple is native to southwestern Ontario, but because it is widely planted as a shade tree it may be found across the country. Trunks of dead silver maples are often hollow and provide homes for squirrels, raccoons, owls and ducks.

The Manitoba maple, box-elder or ashleaf maple, is the only maple with a compound leaf (like the ash). It’s a hardy tree in the Prairie Provinces where it has been planted for shade and in shelter belts.

The mountain maple is the most wide-spread maple and serves as understorey in most forest areas. It does not grow to any great size and is found as a large shrub or at best, a very small tree. It is a common upstart on cut-over forest land.     
The stripped maple, sometimes called moose maple or moosewood is a shrubby understorey tree exceptional because of its smooth, green bark with whitish stripes. Young shoots are a favourite with deer and moose.

The Douglas or Rocky Mountain maple is found in much of British Columbia and a few locations in Alberta. It is a large, scrubby shrub rather than a tree and is planted as an ornamental in gardens because of its bright fall colouring.

The vine maple is another shrubby maple tree found mainly as understorey in southern British Columbia. The young shoots are a favourite browse for elk, deer and goats.

As you can see, the maple family is large and glorius, especially when its various species light up the fall scene with their brilliant colours!

Photos by Clayton Rollins


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