As Canadians, we should know our maple leafs, right? After all, it’s on our flag. But do we know the differences between a sugar maple leaf and a red maple leaf? How about a silver maple or a norway maple? I did an exploration of my neighbourhood to find samples of maple leafs. I’ve posted pictures of them, along with hints on how to identify them.
The Red Maple (Acer rubrum) has leaves whose edges are not smooth, but are serrated. The leaves are 2 to 5 inches. Often triangular in shape, they have 3 to 5 lobes. The fall colour ranges from yellow, yellow-green, orange and red.
Below, are pictures of Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) leaves. Notice the smooth edges. They are a bit bigger than red maples, being 3 to 6 inches. Also, they have three to five lobes. Their fall colours range from yellow to orange to red hues. Below is a lovely red and yellow one I found beside Queen Street in Toronto.
The Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) leaves are also quite smooth, but their 5 lobes are usually more deeply cut. They are from 3 to 6 inches in size. Another distinguishing feature is the silvery underside which give this tree its common name. The fall colours are green, brown and yellow.
The leaf of a Norway Maple (Acer platinoides) is quite similar to a sugar maple; however, it tends to be wider than it is long. They are also often very large. A foolproof way of finding out whether it is a Norway maple is if during the growing season its leaves ooze a white sap when broken. Norway maple leaves tend to turn colour later in the season, and have less spectacular colour — a pale yellow. As well, like the leaf shown below, the Norway maple leaves are prone to getting black spots, a type of fungal disease.
The Autumn Blaze Maple hybrid tree (Acer saccharinum x Acer rubrum) is a cross between a Silver Maple and a Red Maple. The five lobes of the leaves are not as deeply cut as a Silver Maple’s, although it keeps the silver underside. The fall colour is scarlet orange, or red.
Leaf of a Manitoba Maple (Acer negundo) does not look like your typical maple leaf. Another common name for it is the ash-leaved maple — an apt name for this compound-leafed tree.
A less well-known maple is the Amur Maple (Acer ginnala). Its leaves are smaller (2-3 inches), have double serrated edges and have 3 lobes.
So that’s a quick primer on maple leaves. Now go out and look around for these leaves before they all disappear for the winter. During their leafless season, you’ll need to identify the trees by their bark and structure, which I find more difficult.
P. S. Which type of maple leaf do you think most resembles the one on our Canadian flag?