Maples are an arboreal fixation for Canadians. Never has a tree been loved by so many, for so long. We have abiding tolerance for the maple's ways and means of spreading progeny, and obligingly allow maple keys to root into every nook and cranny. Several years down the road, when shade begins to spread over the garden, we are still reluctant to remove saplings. Uprooting these aggressive youngsters is about as acceptable as ruining a sunset. After all, the profile of the maple leaf is firmly affixed to our flag, our national character, and our lapels when we travel abroad.
You are likely to see a maple tree from the vantage point of any Canadian doorstep. In fact, you may see several of your own and enough of your neighbour's to make a small forest. Maples are an arboreal fixation for Canadians. Never has a tree been loved by so many, for so long.
In the Victorian language of flowers, maples symbolize reserve, a characteristic that reflects Canadian heritage and values, and is associated with the strengths necessary to build a nation in the North. But before the maple was an image of national pride, it was a tangible asset. We were quick to realize the usefulness of the maple forests, using the wood for axles and spokes, fabricating Windsor chairs, inlaying mahogany, and as a major component in the production of potash fertilizer (maple ash is high in this mineral). The profits from the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) also included the manufacture of good molasses and excellent vinegar after the sweet sap was finished.
History of the maple
Many of the maples lining our streets and country lanes are old and weathered relics of a time when big trees were the only choices. The garden naturalist William Robinson (The English Flower Garden, 1883) thought the big maples, Norway maple and silver maple (A. platanoides and A. saccharinum), were "of the highest value," and wrote, "It is doubtful if there is any finer tree than this when old," a point contemporary gardeners might dispute after encountering maple roots in the dahlia bed. The simple logic of placing large plants in large spaces seems to have eluded city fathers in many municipalities and has greatly increased the ranks of dry shade gardeners on small city lots. Under ideal growing conditions, big maples can reach 36 metres and live for up to 200 years on your front lawn. But no tree lives forever, and moderately sized maples can be big assets in smaller gardens.