Money Maple Mishap

Left - Norway maple, Right - North American sugar maple

There mustn't be any botanists left still in the service of the people in this wonderful, forested country of ours. If there was, we surely would have avoided our country's recent money maple mishap.

When the Bank of Canada released the new $20.00 dollar bill, it could be seen by some that it shows a leaf of the Norway maple rather than the native North American Sugar maple leaf. What is going on in this country of ours?

First we lose the theme song for Hockey Night In Canada, and now foreign maples are invading not only our streets, but our currency as well.

Invasive Norway maple leaf is above the 20 on left

The maple leaf has been a symbol of the vast treed wilderness of what is now Canada since the 18th century. In all that time the sugar maple has been one of Canada's most important trees. I am no flag waver, but I do like trees. And maple syrup.

While the sugar maple only grows in the east, our west coast Bigleaf maples are closely related. Both varieties produce sap that can be made into syrup, but the eastern varieties produce a higher quality.

But what our western maple lacks in sap sugars it makes up for in leaf size. It has the largest leaves of any maple tree.

Leaf from Canadian flag

So important is the maple tree that its leaf also shows up on the Canadian flag. The leaf depicted is of a stylized variety. However, compared with the two leaves in the top photo, one can see it is more like the Sugar maple than the Norway variety.

The BOC says the leaf on the $20 is also of the 'stylized' variety, and that its appearance doesn't matter.

There are probably a few botanists (and a bunch of Canadians, including this one) that would beg to differ.

Bigleaf maple can be found on the west coast
and leaves can be as large as 30cm +

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