Scientific name: Acer (genus)
- Order: Sapindales
- Family: Sapindaceae
- Genus: Acer
The maple tree is part of the soapberry family, which includes lychee and horse-chestnut. More than 100 species are in the Acer genus, and these are either shrubs or trees. Maples are commonly found in North America, Central America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. Some species are the big leaf maple, the amur maple, the Japanese maple, the paperback maple, the hedge maple, and the hornbeam maple.
Furniture and building materials may be made from maple wood. Innumerable food products are made from maple: maple sugar, maple butter, maple tea, and maple taffy. And of course, maple syrup — thick, sticky, and sweet.
Unlike most of the plants we have discussed in earlier posts, the maple is particularly susceptible to diseases or infestations. Caterpillars, for example, may feed on the maple leaves, causing the leaves to appear tattered. The Asian long-horned beetle is another insect that harms the maple tree, but this creature infests maples (tunnels into its bark) instead of just eating the leaves. Maples are also vulnerable to fungal diseases and sooty bark disease.
The maple is part of the Canadian flag because of the tree’s significance in the country’s culture and economy. Namely, two of Canada’s earliest industries — maple wood and maple sugar — depended on the tree. Even today, Canada is known for its maple syrup and maple cookies.
Besides being a symbol of Canada, the maple is a popular species for bonsei cultivation.
In addition, maple seeds are fascinating. Also known as “helicopters,” the seeds are “winged,” and they spin to the ground like helicopters when they are blown down from maple trees in the strong winds of autumn.