Maple

The maple (Acer), is a genus of trees and shrubs of the maple family (Aceraceae).

Sugar Maple
A sugar maple forest in the fall, Ontario (photo by Tim Fitzharris).
Maple Tree
Comfort Maple: the oldest maple tree in Canada, 400 years old, in the Niagara area (photo by Linda Bramble).

The maple (Acer), is a genus of trees and shrubs of the maple family (Aceraceae).

Distribution and Habitat

Of the 125 species found worldwide, over two-thirds grow in China; 10 are native to Canada. Maples grow in various soils and at varying altitudes but prefer deep, moist, fertile soils. They are a major constituent of eastern deciduous forests. Sugar, black, silver, red and striped maples (A. saccharum, A. nigrum, A. saccharinum, A. rubrum and A. pennsylvanicum respectively) are found in the East; mountain maple (A. spicatum) occurs eastwards from Manitoba; Manitoba maple (A. negundo) in Saskatchewan and Manitoba; bigleaf, Douglas and vine maples ( A. macrophyllum, A. glabrum and A. circinatum respectively) in BC.

Description

The tree may be large, medium-sized or small, depending on the species. The leaves are opposite, usually simple and lobed, and have 3-9 veins. The paired, winged fruits are a food source for birds and small mammals; deer and moose eat young twigs and leaves.

Cultural Importance

Collecting Sap
Droplet of maple sap flowing from tap on a trunk of a maple tree into a pail to produce maple syrup.
Maple Syrup
Traditional maple syrup making process by boiling tree's sup in huge pots, during maple syrup festival in Ontario, Canada near Toronto. Photo taken on: March 30th, 2014
Making Maple Syrup
Boiling and pouring of maple syrup.

The great commercial value of the hard, durable maple wood is overshadowed by the worldwide fame of maple sugar and syrup. The maple leaf has long been considered an appropriate emblem for Canada. Maple leaves were used in coats of arms granted in 1868 to Ontario and Québec and the Canadian coat of arms granted in 1921. The leaf was used on regimental badges in WWI and WWII and was confirmed as an official national symbol in 1965 with the proclamation of the national flag. The maple was finally recognized as Canada's arboreal emblem in 1996.


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