There are lots of lovely trees in Canada, and many of them are of the broadleaf variety (as opposed to the needle variety). This is a challenge to get to know five broad leaf or deciduous (meaning they lose their leaves every year) trees in your neighbourhood. The easiest way to tell trees apart is by their leaves, but the bark, the flowers, the seeds, the leaf buds and twigs are also helpful.
If you are new to tree identification, you may find it easiest to collect leaves that are noticeably different and identify them by their “genus” rather than their “species”. Some of the common trees by genus you might find in Canada are: Maple (Acer), Oak (Quercus), Birch (Betula), Poplar or Aspen (Popula), and Beech (Fagus).
We decided to find out how many different species of Maple trees lived near us. All maples have leaves with three main lobes which are set opposite on the twigs. All maples have similar-looking seeds called samaras with a set of thin wings which allow them to be carried a little ways by the wind.
The first one was in our backyard. It is a Red Maple, but the interesting thing about Red Maples is that they can be male or female or both. Ours is male. It is covered in the small male, pollen-producing flowers in the spring, but it never produces seeds. Its buds are red, its flowers are red, and in the fall, it turns a lovely dark red. These trees are native to Canada, and are very common in the forests of Nova Scotia. Their leaves are not very large, although they are bigger on younger trees. The seeds are shed in the early summer. The bark is smooth and light grey at first and becomes a darker grey with long, narrow ridges as it matures.
We also have a Norway Maple in our yard. These trees were imported from Europe as shade trees. Their leaves are quite large and they stay on the tree very late into the fall, finally turning yellow before they fall off. They have beautiful yellow-green flower clusters in the spring. These become large samaras with wings that stretch out to each side, and that drop off late in the fall.
We found a Sugar Maple during a walk in an older area of town. These are the trees most often tapped for maple syrup. They are a long-lived tree, but very slow growing which means their wood is harder and more valuable. Their seeds are not very large, and the wing parts are almost parallel. They drop in the fall. The leaves turn gorgeous yellows, oranges, and reds in the fall.
There was a Mountain Maple growing on the side of the road not far from us. The leaves are three-lobed and a bit wrinkly. They are more like large, multi stem shrubs. Their flower clusters stand erect on the twig in the spring. The seeds are quite small and hang on late into the winter.
The Striped Maple we found in the forest, growing by a little fast flowing stream. It has beautiful green bark when young, and as it grows, the outside breaks into furrows and lets the white underbark show through which makes it look striped. Its leaves are three-lobed, and large for its size. They turn a lovely bright yellow in the fall. The flowers are loose, drooping clusters of little yellow bell-like flowers.
Choose five different leaves from your nature walk, press them and then attach them to a page in your nature journal (or you can draw them, or trace them and colour them in, or use photographs if you prefer). You can use modge podge to attach them. This will keep them from drying out and disintegrating. Paint the back of the leaf, put it where you want it on your page and smooth it down, then paint over the whole leaf and a little beyond the edges, and let it dry. Take care not to put two leaves facing each other on your journal pages, as they will stick to each other when you close the book. Add any details you can find about the trees such as tree shape, flower, fruit or seed, bark and anything else you find interesting.