Cheers to the city Silver Maple!
Feel that scaly silver bark! Check out those big red buds and flowers!
The first buds to appear, Silver Maples kick off springtime’s celebration of growth. This year, the Silver Maple buds came out at the beginning of March, almost 3 weeks ahead of last year.
Silver maple is an important food source in the early spring, one of the hungriest times of the year. The appearance of these buds and flowers triggers a feeding frenzy among squirrels and birds. See anybody munching today? For our own enjoyment, Silver Maple sap can be gathered and boiled down to a thin, tasty syrup.
A tree walk in the North End neighbourhood could easily be all about appreciating the huge, old Silver Maples found here. Their presence and age tell us stories about this land’s past…
Silver Maples are fast-growing wetland trees, but can thrive in lots of environments, even front lawns. We know that the traintracks and valley that cut north through this neighbourhood just East of Ferguson, follow the gap left from an inlet from the bay. In fact, all of the North End was a lush, flooded wetland until the 1830’s.
This might also be why so many Silver Maples were planted here as the neighbourhood was built. Soggy soils in and around a newly built-up property could be stabilized by a water-loving Silver Maple, particularly important in the aftermath of the cholera outbreaks of the 1800s.
Starting in 1883, the Ontario Tree Planting Act began paying 25 cents to folks who could keep a roadside tree alive for 3 years. Easy to grow, Silver Maples were the popular choice. But for a tree, Silver Maples don’t live long, getting to be 130 years old, at most.
Many of these trees are now coming to the end of their life cycles. Keep a special eye out for these neighbourhood elders as you continue this walk. Since they often grow to be hollow on the inside, they are an important source of urban habitat for many friends such as raccoons, owls, and even turkey vultures.
We value the city Silver Maple for habitat too, especially in the summer heat. Looking up from hot sidewalks, we thank them for their generous shade cast by finely cut whispering leaves, flashing green and pale.
For more Silver Maple love babble, check out the Spring Love Affair Series.