Tree tour today in Côte St-Luc, 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Meet at Eleanor London Library. Free.
It’s one of the curiosities of life in Montreal that Quebec’s most common trees are not easily found in the city. Mostly, it’s because they favour more northern bioclimatic domains and far more space than the city can offer. I’m thinking of the trembling aspen, paper birch, white spruce and jack pine.
But there’s one tree that fits into this category that is, in fact, relatively easy to find, if you know the leaf you’re looking for. I’m speaking of the red maple (érable rouge/erable plaine, Acer rubrum), a tree often confused with the larger and more flamboyant members of the maple family. Many people, for instance, call the Crimson King cultivar of the Norway a red maple due to the dark red colour of the leaves.
(I apologize for this Wiki photo. Will replace it soon with one of my own.)
Other maples, whose leaves turn red, such as the sugar maple and silver maple, may also obscure the identify of the most beautiful of the autumn reds, that of the red maple. The sugar maples colours will range from yellow to orange to red and the overall effect is flame-like. The silver maple, on the other hand, is a weak, faded red. However, the bark of the mature silver maple, grey and flakinging, is virtually identical to the red, making the two difficult to distinguish once they have lost their leaves.
Now is a good time to get to know this shy tree and a good place to start is in a rare, government protected, red maple-wetland (érablière au sol humide) found in Côte St-Luc’s Nathan Shuster Park, a five minute walk from that city’s excellent library. The red maple forest, the trees of the library park and those in between will be introduced on today’s walk that is hosted by the City of Côte-St-Luc.
The red maple leaf stands apart, not only for its colour (which I’ll come back to later in the fall) but for its shape. With three (sometimes five), relatively shallow, dominant lobes, each highly toothed, the leaf of the red maple contrasts with the deeply lobed leaf of the silver maple, and the toothless leaf of the sugar maple.
Scouting the Nathan Shuster Park last weekend for other species typical of a wetland forest, I was thrilled to find three other species of tree that are rare in Montreal, shagbark hickory (caryer ovale, Carya ovata), muscle wood (charme de Caroline, Carpinus caroliana), and black ash (frêne noir, Fraxinus nigra).
Another rarity in the park is poison ivy. So, if you attend today’s walk, be sure to wear closed shoes.