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.
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.
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.