Garden Clippings for August 26, 2023

Not a coat of arms.  Not a collection of stars and stripes.  Not a moon or star.  A simple Maple leaf.  One colour with a white background and two red stripes on either side.

The Maple leaf was chosen in 1964 to be the symbol of Canadian pride, to be permanently adorning our flag, just in time for Canada’s 100th Centennial celebrations.

It must have been an easy choice.  During the few years prior to its official adoption, there were several other flag designs considered, all variations of the Maple theme.

Already at the turn of the century, the Maple symbol has been near and dear to Canadians.  It was during the First World War that unknown soldiers would have their gravesites etched with a Canadian  Maple leaf, repeated for the Second World War.

The Maple leaf, with its easily recognized 3 dominant points and 2 smaller points, is treasured by all Canadians from British Columbia to Newfoundland.

For Ontario and all provinces east, our flagship Maple is Sugar Maple, famous for its incredible fall colour.  The other two dominant species, Silver and Manitoba, are more plentiful but less appreciated.

The most widespread species in Canada is the little-known Mountain Maple, which can be found from the East Coast to Saskatchewan.  Mountain Maple is rather nondescript, growing as an understory or shrub maple.  Mountain Maple does not have many distinguishing features and grows further north than most deciduous tree species.

In British Columbia, the dominant Maple is Big Leaf Maple, a coarsely textured tree, with large, deeply lobed leaves.  In the fall, leaves drop without colour, leaving a carpet of foliage on the ground, with similar effects as Oaks in Lambton County.

Worldwide, there are about 150 Maple species, most found in Asia and all places on the other side of the ocean.

The many species of Maples hardly have characteristics that are common to each other.  All like rich, well drained soil.  For Southwestern Ontario, Manitoba and Silver Maples are fast growing, weak wooded, do not have exiting fall colour, and are not particularly long lived.  Manitoba and Silver Maples are tolerant of wet soil, while most Maples don’t enjoy sitting in water.

Sugar Maples are prized for their fall colour, tall straight trunks, and of course, Maple syrup.  The leaf shape of Sugar Maple most closely resembles the Maple on our Canadian flag.  Sugar Maples can be  difficult to distinguish from Silver or Norway Maples, but the identifying feature is the pointed leaves that take a slight curve at the leaf tips.

Next week’s Garden Clippings will take a closer look at the many varieties of Maples.