Oh Canada! In Praise of the Sugar Maple

Green sugar maple leaves on the tree from underneath, in summer.

Look up, it’s Canada’s symbol, in its green summer glory.

Our national symbol, a leaf, says something about Canadians: We appreciate trees, and we’ve got a lot of them. In the case of the Sugar Maple, the emblem on our national flag, it’s a hard-working tree: it not only shades us, and its sap provides another symbol, a tasty one, maple syrup.
There are thirteen native maple trees in North America, but the Sugar Maple (Acer Saccharum) stands alone. It’s the harbinger of spring, when trees are tapped for syrup, and it’s the marker of the fiery end of the growing season, by lighting up with orange, red and gold.
How do you know a Sugar Maple when you see one? Every Canadian worth their salt should be able to identify it.

Don’t confuse it with the Norway Maple, the ubiquitous non-native Toronto street tree. (Norway Maples don’t turn orange in the fall, and their thirsty roots make gardening underneath them difficult.) Wiki How has a great Sugar Maple Identification page to check out.

The flat sided, boxy shape of the top leaf lobe is the dead giveaway that you are looking at a Sugar Maple. Also, the top of the leaf is darker than the underside. Leaves grow at almost a right angle from the twig, paired along the length. (Called “opposite orientation” in hort talk)

If you plant a Sugar Maple, pick a spot where its roots can roam. It doesn’t like restricted root zones. It’s one tree that can take a bit of shade. Make sure you water well in drought, especially as it gets established. That’s good advice for any tree you plant.

Many Sugar Maple cultivars are available. “Green Mountain” is drought tolerant, and “Caddo” grows to only 30 feet. Finding a spot to plant a Sugar Maple has never been easier.

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