10 Native Types of Maple Trees in Canada

There are 10 native maple trees in Canada and 13 native to North America. Maples can be found across the country but thrive particularly in eastern Canada (Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic provinces).

To be specific, maple tree species native to Canada are bigleaf maple, black maple, box elder / Manitoba maple, mountain maple, red maple, rocky mountain maple / Douglas maple, silver maple, striped maple, sugar maple and vine maple.

Another common non-native maple species in Canada is the Norway maple.

The Canadian maple tree has a major cultural significance because the maple leaf is the focal point on the Canadian flag, Canada’s arboreal emblem, and appears on Canada’s Coat of Arms.

In terms of economy, maple is the second most important hardwood species in Canada (after birch) and is used for flooring, furniture, boats, the interior woodwork of houses, and of course, maple syrup.

Keep reading to learn more about common types of maple trees in Canada, the identification tips and benefits.

Canadian maple tree leaves comparison - sugar maple, black maple, red maple and silver maple

1.Bigleaf Maple / Oregon Maple / Acer Macrophyllum

Bigleaf Maple, as its name implies, has the biggest leaves of all maple trees, about 15–30 cm (6–12 inches). Occasionally, the leaf can grow 60cm wide (24 inches).

This tree is a true giant among maples not only because of its large leaves. In the proper conditions, it can reach 30 m (100 feet) tall.

The bigleaf maples have broad, rounded crowns, making them excellent shade trees.

It’s one of the few deciduous native trees on Vancouver Island.

Its large burls are highly desirable for furniture veneers. It’s also a favorite staple food for deer and elk. Its sap can be tapped for syrup, similar to the sugar maple, though it’s less common.

Quick Identification Tips: Bigleaf maple has 5-lobed large leaves (15-30cm wide), typically separated by narrow U-shaped notches. The flowers are yellow, fragrant.

Where It Grows in Canada: Predominantly in southern British Columbia, especially on Vancouver Island.

Map highlighting the geographical distribution of bigleaf maple trees in Canada, with areas where the species grows marked in red.
Bigleaf Maple tree leaf illustration
Bigleaf Maple Leaf

2.Black Maple / Acer Nigrum

Black maple was at some point considered to be a subspecies of sugar maple because of their similarities.

It’s more abundant in the United States than in Canada, but it’s native to southern Ontario and Montreal Island.

It has essentially the same properties and uses as sugar maple, although it prefers moister sites. It can be recognized by its droopy, downward-curving leaves.

Quick Identification Tips: Black maple looks similar to sugar maple but has darker bark, drooping leaves, and generally three lobes with hairy undersides and stalks. Pointy drooping edges of leaves resemble claws.

Where It Grows in Canada: Mostly found in Southern Ontario and Quebec.

Map highlighting the geographical distribution of black maple trees in Canada, with areas where the species grows marked in red.
black maple leaf illustration
Black Maple Leaf

3.Box Elder / Manitoba Maple / Acer Negundo

Unique among the maples, Manitoba maple has a compound leaf with 3-9 long-pointed leaflets, which are variously toothed, lobed, or cleft.

It’s commonly planted in cities for shade and ornamental purposes. Its sap is sweet enough for processing maple syrup.

Quick Identification Tips: Box Elder is the only maple species with a compound leaf consisting of multiple smaller leaflets rather than lobed leaves.

Where It Grows in Canada: Manitoba, Saskatchewan and parts of southwestern Ontario.

Map highlighting the geographical distribution of manitoba maple / box elder trees in Canada, with areas where the species grows marked in red.
manitoba maple leaf illustration
Manitoba Maple Leaf

4.Mountain Maple / Acer Spicatum

Mountain maple can sometimes be mistaken for a young red maple because it also can have red stalks. Mountain maple can be distinguished by its darker and rounder leaves. The leaves are usually 3-5 lobed and sharply irregularly toothed, with hairy twigs. The bark is red-brown.

This small, bushy tree is the smallest maple in eastern Canada, up to 5 meters high. It commonly grows in the hilly underbrush, providing cover for the ruffed grouse.

Quick Identification Tips: Mountain Maple usually has 3 lobes with sharp teeth on the edges and hairy twigs. It’s a shrubby tree.

Where It Grows in Canada: Common in the understory of forests across Eastern Canada.

Map highlighting the geographical distribution of mountain maple trees in Canada, with areas where the species grows marked in red.
mountain maple leaf illustration
Mountain Maple Leaf

5.Red Maple / Acer Rubrum

Straight, fast-growing, and easy to transplant, red maple serves as an excellent shade tree, thriving best when provided with sufficient moisture.

Its wood may reveal unique grains known as birds-eye maple or curly maple, highly prized by the furniture industry for their aesthetic appeal.

The leaves of the red maple have 3-5 lobes that point forward, with a sharp V in the angle between the lobes. The edges have more teeth than those of sugar maple.

Throughout the year, some part of the tree shows red: the buds in spring, the leaves in fall, and the twigs at all times.

Quick Identification Tips: Red Maple has distinct reddish leaf stalks connecting the leaves to the twig. Red flowers that appear before the leaves.

Where It Grows in Canada: Found across Eastern Canada, extending into Manitoba.

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Sugar maple vs red maple identification

Map highlighting the geographical distribution of red maple trees in Canada, with areas where the species grows marked in red.
red maple leaf illustration
Red Maple Leaf

6.Rocky Mountain Maple / Douglas Maple / Acer Glabrum

The Rocky Mountain maple, also known as Douglas maple, is a shrub or small tree, commonly 6-10 meters tall and with numerous slender branches bearing a dense crown of leaves. It grows predominantly in British Columbia.

It can tolerate a wide range of soils (alkaline to acidic) and conditions (shade to full sun).

Quick Identification Tips: Douglas Maple is often a multi-stem shrub or small maple tree with 3-5 lobed, coarsely double-toothed leaves with a somewhat rounded appearance.

Where It Grows in Canada: Mostly in mountainous regions and forest understories of British Columbia and few localities of Alberta.

Map highlighting the geographical distribution of douglas maple / rocky mountain maple trees in Canada, with areas where the species grows marked in red.
rocky mountain maple leaf illustration
Rocky Mountain Maple Leaf

7.Silver Maple / Acer Saccharinum

Favoring the moist environments along lakeshores and streams, silver maple is characterized by its 5-7 lobed leaves with deep notches and big, conspicuous clusters of plump buds.

It can be mistaken for red maple when leafless. It has a short trunk and is among the first trees to bloom in spring.

Despite its fast growth, silver maple’s wood is brittle, making it susceptible to wind damage. Its primary use is ornamental, enhancing city streets and parks, but it can also be tapped for maple syrup.

Quick Identification Tips: Silver maple is whitish/silvery on the underside of the leaf, with deep narrow intersections between lobes.

Where It Grows in Canada: Common along wetlands across Eastern Canada.

Map highlighting the geographical distribution of silver maple trees in Canada, with areas where the species grows marked in red.
silver maple leaf illustration
Silver Maple Leaf

8.Striped Maple / Acer Pensylvanicum

With its thin, 3-lobed leaves measuring 10-16 cm in length and nearly as broad, the striped maple resembles a small, bushy tree similar to the mountain maple.

Under right conditions, it can grow up to 10 meters.

Also known as moosewood, it is favored by deer and moose for its sugary bark and buds. Striped maple thrives in the woods, near mountain streams, and in cool, shadowy places.

It’s one of the common trees in Nova Scotia.

Quick Identification Tips: Striped maple has large three-lobed leaves similar to mountain maple but with more finely toothed edges and distinctive green striped bark.

Where It Grows in Canada: Prefers the cooler, moist forests of Eastern Canada, from Nova Scotia to Ontario.

Map highlighting the geographical distribution of striped maple trees in Canada, with areas where the species grows marked in red.
striped maple leaf illustration
Striped Maple Leaf

9.Sugar Maple / Acer Saccharum

For hardness, strength, beauty and longevity, sugar maple surpasses all other species. Its wood is highly valued by furniture builders.

Sugar maple sap has the highest sugar content of all the maples (3-5%), making it a desirable tree for the maple syrup industry.

A sugar maple often reaches heights of 25-30 m. Note that its leaves have five lobes that point outward and are U-shaped.

Quick Identification Tips: Sugar maple is the most iconic native Canadian maple tree and has bright green leaves with five U-shaped lobes.

Where It Grows in Canada: Widespread in hardwood forests of Eastern Canada, particularly abundant in southern Quebec and Ontario.

Map highlighting the geographical distribution of sugar maple trees in Canada, with areas where the species grows marked in red.
sugar maple leaf illustration
Sugar Maple Leaf

10.Vine Maple / Acer Circinatum

Vine maple is a shrub or small tree that may reach 10 m in height.

It thrives in moist soils along streams. It can often be found in forest understories, along stream banks, and in open areas that provide some level of shade or partial sun.

Its leaves usually have 7-9 triangular lobes with V-shaped notches.

Quick Identification Tips: Vine maple has almost round leaves with 7 to 9 triangular lobes and sharp single or double-toothed edges.

Where It Grows in Canada: Mostly in the understory of moist, forested areas in British Columbia.

Map highlighting the geographical distribution of vine maple trees in Canada, with areas where the species grows marked in red.
Vine Maple Leaf

Identifying Maple Trees

Identifying a maple is easy if you know what to look for. Two key features that are common across native maple species are the opposite branching pattern and leaf shape.

What I mean by opposite branching pattern is that branches, buds and leaves grow across from one another, arranged in pairs, rather than alternating.

Maple leaves are also quite distinct, they typically have three to five lobes and are often referred to as “hand-shaped,” with the exception of Manitoba maple/box elder.

Mature maples are large dense trees with rounded crowns. The trunks are typically straight and free of branches until about two-thirds of the tree’s height.

The bark of the mature maple tree is usually light to dark gray.

They’re also characterized by V-shaped seeds (samaras). They’re often called “helicopter seeds” due to the way they spin and whirl as they fall from the tree.

maple vs non maple opposite branching pattern illustration
the opposite branching pattern of maple trees
Illustration displaying nine types of Canadian maple tree leaves for comparison with labels. Top row, from left to right: Silver Maple, Red Maple, Bigleaf Maple. Middle row: Striped Maple, Mountain Maple, Manitoba Maple. Bottom row: Sugar Maple, Vine Maple, Black Maple. Each leaf is distinct in shape, aiding in species identification

Benefits of Maple Trees

Maple syrup

It’s generally agreed that First Nations people were the first to produce maple syrup. And to this day, it’s a favorite breakfast treat and a popular Canadian export product. It’s made by tapping maple trees in the spring to collect sweet sap, which is then boiled down into syrup.

Wood

Maple trees have an aesthetic, light-colored, and strong hardwood that is popular for furniture, flooring, and woodworking.

Wildlife

Maple trees produce samaras – dry, winged fruit that resemble “helicopters” because of the spinning motion they make as they fall. Samaras are a great food source for wildlife, such as squirrels, mice, cardinals, grosbeaks, and chipmunks.

Landscaping

Maple trees are fantastic ornamental trees because of their visual appeal in landscaping. With their vibrant foliage that ranges from fiery reds to golden yellows, maple trees add a touch of elegance and charm to any outdoor space.

FAQ Maples in Canada

Where do maple trees grow in Canada?

Maple trees can be found in multiple provinces across Canada, from the eastern provinces like Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario, to parts of Manitoba and British Columbia. They’re especially abundant in the deciduous forests of Eastern Canada, where conditions are ideal for their growth.

Why is Canada known for maple trees?

Canada is known for maple trees because of the significant role maple syrup, a product made from the sap of maple trees, plays in its culture, economy, and history. Canada is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, with Quebec accounting for a majority of Canadian production (about 90%). The maple leaf also features on the Canadian flag.

What percentage of trees in Canada are maple trees?

Canadian forests are predominantly boreal, with about 70% coniferous trees. Maple trees account for 3% of total Canadian forest land.

Is Canada the only place with maple trees?

There are over 100 types of maple trees (acer species) in the world, two-thirds of which are in Asia, 10 are native Canadian maples and 13 are native to North America. 

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