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Canada’s Arboreal Emblems:

Canada — Maple (genus Acer)

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Flag of Canada Drapeau du Canada
Map of Canada

The generic maple species (Acer spp) is Canada’s official arboreal emblem. There are more than 100 different species of maple around the world, 10 of which are native to Canada: sugar, black, silver, bigleaf, red, mountain, striped, Douglas, vine, and Manitoba.

While most maples are trees that can reach anywhere from 10 metres to 45 metres tall, other maples are shrubs of less than 10 metres in height. Leaves of maples are usually deciduous in opposite pairs and are palmately veined and lobed in most species. Maple trees are known for their vibrant leaf colours in autumn. The fruits of maples are samaras in winged pairs enclosing a seed that are dispersed by wind. Maple is an important food source for wildlife.

The wood of maples varies among species and is generally light in colour. Maple wood is used for furniture, flooring, woodwork, plywood, and firewood. Most species produce sap that can be used to produce sugar. The most notable commercial production of maple syrup comes from the sugar maple.

A stylized maple leaf famously adorns the Canadian flag but is also found in other important Canadian symbols including the red ensign flag (Canada’s de facto national flag until 1965) and the Royal Coat of Arms of Canada. Stylized versions of the leaf can also be found on bank notes, military insignia, the personal flag of the Queen of Canada and the flag of the Governor General of Canada.

1819 drawing of Sugar maple by François André Michaux

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)