Tree Tuesday: Comparing maples

Every Tuesday, Todd Irvine of LEAF posts a stop from the Toronto Tree Tours, a collaborative project of LEAF and the Toronto Public Space Committee. The Toronto Tree Tours offers walking tours in neighbourhoods across the city as well as virtual tours on its web site. The aim is to introduce Torontonians to the individual trees in their neighbourhood while telling stories of our city’s ecological and cultural history.

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Trinity Bellwoods Park and Neighbourhood: Stop 4

The large tree with a spreading crown on the slope beyond the path running through the park is a Norway maple (Acer platanoides), a non-native species that has been regularly planted for the past century because it grows well, has an attractive form, and tolerates urban conditions. Regrettably, Norway maples bring with them problems — they are prolific seed producers, which escape into remnant natural areas and crowd out the native trees and plants with their large dense canopies. A number of Norway maple saplings, for example, are growing on the naturalized portion of the slope. Members of Friends of Trinity Bellwoods in partnership with City Urban Forestry staff have initiated a pilot program to control the invasive trees and plants on the sides of the slope and encourage the growth of desirable native species such as staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina). A group of volunteers spent a full day in the spring removing common burdock (Arctium minus), a noxious weed that grows as tall as three meters high with large leaves that shade out smaller plants.

This stop also provides an opportunity to compare three mature trees, each a different species of maple. Just beyond the Norway maple and directly beside the path is a healthy sugar maple (Acer saccharum). The sugar maple’s bark is smooth when it is young, but as it ages, it assumes a courser appearance with long irregular ridges. A likeness of the sugar maple leaf is found on the Canadian flag. Its leaves are often smaller and not quite as dark as the Norway maple. A useful trick to tell the difference between the two is to remove a leaf where it meets the twig. If the leaf stem exudes a white milky substance, it is a Norway. The third tree is a silver maple (Acer saccharinum), located approximately five paces to the east of the sugar maple. The silver maple has finer leaves than the other two maples with deep lobes and a silvery tinge on their undersides. The mature bark is distinctive because it forms long thin narrow flakes that are fastened at the centre and free at both ends.

Read more stories from the Trinity Bellwoods Park & neighbourhood tree tour . . .

Photo by Vincenzo Pietropaolo

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This Thursday is LEAFy Drinks!!

Join LEAF staff and volunteers at the Victory Cafe to have a pint and meet other Toronto tree lovers. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, volunteer, or you’re just eager to meet and greet others who share your love of Toronto’s trees, this is the place for you.

Location: Victory Cafe (2nd floor), 581 Markham St. (one block west of Bathurst, one block south of Bloor)
Time: 7:00 pm onwards