GARDENING CLIPPINGS: Ontario house to 10 types of the maple tree

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GARDENING CLIPPINGS: Ontario house to 10 types of the maple tree

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Although the maple tree has a long and loving history with Canada, it was only officially declared the official tree of Canada in 1996, just 28 years ago.  And when Prime Minister Jean Chretien signed the declaration, he didn't say what kind he had in mind.  John DeGroot photo Although the maple tree has a long and loving history with Canada, it was only officially declared the official tree of Canada in 1996, just 28 years ago. And when Prime Minister Jean Chretien signed the declaration, he didn’t say what kind he had in mind. John DeGroot photo jpg, SO

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Ask any elementary school kid what the official national tree for Canada is and the answer will be “maple”. Correct.

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Although the maple tree has a long and loving history with Canada, it was only officially declared the official tree of Canada in 1996, just 28 years ago. And when Prime Minister Jean Chretien signed the declaration, he didn’t say what kind he had in mind.

Canada is home to many maple cultivars, 10 of which are found in Ontario. For us in southwestern Ontario, there are three significant species of native maples.

Manitoba maple (Acer Negundo) is a fast-growing, lightly wooded tree with a haphazard, tall shape. In southwestern Ontario, it’s almost considered a nuisance invasive species because it grows anywhere you don’t want it. West of Ontario, the Manitoba maple is a respected and valued tree.

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Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is another fast-growing tree that grows too easily in Ontario. Its helicopters, or whirling birds as we called them, sprout in gardens, eaves, and swampy ditch banks. Silver maples are often found in the forests of southern Ontario but are more plentiful in urban backyards.

Sugar maples (Acer saccharum) are trees loved by Ontario residents. Sugar maples are known for their incredible fall color, which ranges from yellow to red and every color in between. The second important attribute of the sugar maple is maple syrup, which is offered to us once the sap begins to run early in spring.

In Canada’s westernmost province, the Big Leaf Maple (Acer macropyllum) grows into a huge, spreading tree. British Columbia is also home to the Vine Maple (Acer Circinatum) and Douglas or Rocky Mountain Maple (Acer Glabrum), both of which are smaller trees with a shrubby shape.

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Sugar maple grows freely in and around the Great Lakes, south to Tennessee and east to Nova Scotia. They are not found west of Ontario. Wisconsin, New York, Vermont, and West Virginia list sugar maple as their official state tree.

The bark of the sugar maple is grayer and smoother than any other native maple. Green moss grows freely on the bark of sugar maples that grow in dense forests. The leaves of the sugar maple are green in spring and summer and turn bright colors in fall.

Those wishing to distinguish between sugar maples and other Canadian maples will find that their leaves resemble those that grace the Canadian flag, but their leaf lobe tips deviate slightly to the left or right.

Sugar maples have an odd trait where their seeds won’t germinate unless exposed to cold temperatures for at least five to six weeks to break down their coat, a process called scarification. After the seeds are scratched, they do not sprout until the following spring, when they need consistently warm and moist conditions for several weeks. Nursery growers can beat the system by tossing sugar maple seeds in the freezer for six weeks.

Silver maples are a popular tree because they are easy to grow and transplant, tolerate shade, insects and disease, and provide amazing fall color. Sugar maples are not fussy about soil conditions, but do not like boggy, wet soil.

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