Maple trees are some of the most versatile and beautiful trees in the world. Despite the maple tree’s popularity in Canada, many may not understand their origin as a national symbol. In this blog, we’ll go over everything you ever wanted to know about maple trees.
History of the Maple Leaf Symbol
The maple leaf has been part of Canada’s image since as early as 1700. Early on, Canadian clubs and newspapers used and advocated the maple leaf as a national emblem. But it was not until 1996 that Canada chose the maple tree as its National Arboreal Emblem.
Canada became a confederation in 1867. That same year, Alexander Muir wrote The Maple Leaf Forever as the national song.
Shortly after, provinces Ontario and Quebec featured coats of arms including the maple leaf.
Popularity grew as the maple leaf appeared on all Canadian coins and on army uniforms during both world wars. In 1957, the maple leaves on the Canadian coat of arms changed from green to red to feature one of Canada’s national colours.
Finally on February 15, 1965, the now recognizable maple leaf flag received status as the National Flag of Canada. Today the one cent piece features maple leaves with a nearly unchanged design since 1937. As for the national anthem, it’s not officially The Maple Leaf Forever, but the song remains a beloved melody.
With such a history, it’s no surprise that the maple tree and its leaves now symbolize a diverse and wonderful country. Much like the country it represents, the maple tree has a large variety of types. It features over 150 different species across the Northern hemispheres.
Maple Trees Native to Canada
Ten different species of maple tree are native to Canada. Apart from the territories, maples grow in every area of the country.
Many of these maple species have up to three different names, as follows:
1. Sugar, hard, or rock maple
2. Black or black sugar maple
3. Red maple, also swamp or soft maple
4. Silver or soft maple
5. Big Leaf, broadleaf or Oregon maple
6. Douglas or rocky mountain maple
7. Striped, moose, or moosewood maple
8. Mountain maple
9. Manitoba, box-elder or ash leaf maple
10. Vine maple
While each tree differs in usage and capabilities, the sugar maple is one of the most well-known species in Canada. Every spring, syrup makers collect the valuable sap (sometimes called sweet water) to process. It takes 40 litres (10.5 gallons) of sap to make 1 litre (1 quart) of syrup. The sugar maple leaf is also the national symbol and centre of the Canadian flag.
Other maple trees serve many purposes throughout the country, including hardwood, shade, and landscaping. Common traits shared by all Canadian maples include:
- 5 tapered and pointed lobes
- Deciduous leaves
- Winged fruits called keys or helicopters
- Quick growth
- Light-coloured uniform wood
- Shallow root systems
- Obvious response to light
- Brilliant autumn colours
Native Canadian maples vary in size, shape, and usage. They also provide glorious fall foliage, which attracts thousands of tourists each year. Since maples are also fairly low-maintenance, it makes them particularly suited for easy landscaping.
Maples in Landscaping
Before choosing a maple tree based on looks, speak with a qualified landscape designer. They’ll have the knowledge about which trees prosper where. After all, each native Canadian maple species has certain areas of preferred habitat.
The red maple is most common in eastern Canada, whereas the black maple restricts its growth to Southwestern Ontario. If you live in the Prairie Provinces, it’s best to go with the Manitoba maple due to its hardy structure and ample shade.
Shrub-like maples tend to excel in British Columbia and certain parts of Alberta. If you live in these areas, the Douglas maple provides a viable garden ornament that contributes vibrant fall colouring. The vine maple is also an option if you’re looking for smaller shrub trees.
Speaking of smaller maples, the Mountain and Striped maple both provide a smaller tree for your property. Be careful to watch for hungry herbivores, though, as moose and deer enjoy the Striped maple as a favourite treat.
Silver maples originate in Southwestern Ontario, but do well in a variety of climates across the country. It also interacts well with the Red maple, providing hybrid varieties for adventurous landscapers.
If you live in a more humid and warm climate such as southern British Columbia, consider the Big Leaf maple. This noble tree has a grand trunk and majestic limbs. Moss, liverwort, and fern tend to grow on the Big Leaf in moist climates, so you can also add that to your garden aesthetic.
Maples require little maintenance, but be sure to give a young sapling plenty of water until it’s established. Spread a layer of mulch at a sapling’s base to provide helpful nutrients. You should also prune in the winter or autumn, but don’t take too many branches off. If you want to use fertilizer, use a granular and slow-acting type on the maple’s roots during autumn.
Please note: If you are a homeowner, you should always consult your local nursery to find out what zone your city is located in and ask them to recommend a maple as not all maples will grow in all zones.