The Iconic maple: Canada’s tree

by Jennifer Humphries

Sugar maples turn orange, yellow and red, and sometimes all three at once.

Only 10 of the 150 species of maple trees worldwide are native to Canada. So what is it about the maple that makes it quintessentially Canadian?

I spoke with Ken Jewett, founder of Maple Leaves Forever (MLF), a charitable foundation that advocates and supports the planting of native Canadian maples in rural and urban Ontario, and Carl Mansfield, an arboreal adviser to the organization.

Jewett was inspired early in his life to plant maples for their beauty and hardiness. When he retired from business he decided to promote their planting by others. MLF has given over $2 million since 2000 to individuals and groups for education and planting initiatives. A key program covers 25 per cent of the cost of saplings for rural landowners who plant a

Ken Jewett
Ken Jewett, founder of Maple Leaves Forever, an organization that promotes the planting of native Canadian maple trees. Photos: Carl Mansfield

minimum of 10 native maples on their properties. MLF also supports an Envirothon that engages Ontario high school students in learning about trees and forests, and the Highway of Heroes’ “A Tree for Every Hero” project.

But why native maples? “We want to reintroduce and restore Canada’s maple tree as a symbol of national pride,” says Jewett. “It’s our arboreal emblem and there’s a native maple in every province. But in our cities and parks, we’ve been planting non-native maples as often as native maples.”

A case in point is the National Capital Commission (NCC), which had been sourcing maples from Oregon. A seven-year campaign by MLF culminated in 2015 with the decision by the NCC to switch to Canadian trees. The NCC proclaimed, “When a planting on NCC lands calls for a maple tree, it will be a native Canadian maple tree.” A sugar maple was planted by NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson, then chairperson Russell Mills and Ken Jewett to commemorate the decision – you can see the tree and plaque in Major’s Hill Park.

When the red maple leaf was ensconced on our flag in 1965, it became more than ever our signature tree. Surprisingly, the maple was officially adopted as our arboreal emblem only in 1996 but maples have always figured in the lives of Canadians as a source of beauty, brilliant colour, protective shade and, of course, delicious syrup.

Mansfield says that native maples are a natural choice for Ontario residents. They are adapted to local conditions and are resistant to many pests. A host of insects feed on native maples but the maples thrive unlike some non-natives that cannot tolerate “bugs.”

Jewett doesn’t dismiss the importance of other native tree species and encourages a diverse mix. But we’ve been taking our native maples for granted and by our neglect threatening their continued prominence.

The maple tree and its distinctive leaf represent Canada both inside and outside our borders. Jewett wants to make sure their presence is strong, substantial and sustainable.

Take a look at MLF’s website and be inspired by its Canada 150 YouTube video (link on the homepage):

Quick Facts about Canada’s Maples

Of the 150 species of maple (genus Acer), only 13 are native to North America. Ten of these grow in Canada: sugar, black, silver, big leaf, red, mountain, striped, Douglas, vine and Manitoba maples. At least one of the 10 species grows naturally in every province. Canada’s arboreal emblem is the generic maple species.

Ontario’s Maples

The Ontario’s Tree Atlas indicates that seven of Canada’s maples are native to our province: sugar, red, black, silver, Manitoba, mountain and striped. In the Southeast region, of which Ottawa is part, the tree atlas lists four maples – red, sugar, silver and striped – as native.

Jennifer Humphries is co-chair of the Glebe Community Association’s Environment Committee. You can contact her at

Trees in the Glebe Project: 181 new trees for Canada 150!

For Canada’s 150th birthday, the Glebe Community Association (GCA), in partnership with Ecology Ottawa, has urged residents to get planting. Our target was 150 Glebe trees planted this year.

We are thrilled to announce that we have surpassed our goal, tallying 181 new trees in our community in 2017. We’ve compiled data from Ecology Ottawa’s tree giveaway at the Great Glebe Garage Sale, a GCA survey and three City of Ottawa programs: Trees in Trust, Streets and Parks.

Ecology Ottawa gave out 11,000 seedlings across the city this summer and is aiming to go beyond 20,000 in the coming year.

“We’re delighted,” says Angela Keller-Herzog, co-chair of the GCA environment committee. “After the decimation of our ash trees, retreeing our community seemed the ideal way to celebrate Canada’s special year.”

Autumn is the best season to plant trees, so don’t hesitate.

The city’s Trees in Trust has an estimated 12 plantings scheduled for the fall in our area. There are also 14 more trees slated for area parks and nine for our streets. The Trees in Trust fall plantings are now closed but interested community members should apply as soon as possible for the spring 2018 plantings.

We want to express our deepest thanks to all of you who made this arboreal commitment to quality of life in our community during Canada’s 150th year.

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