So, we’ve decided to start a fun little series featuring local trees, creatures and plant species and proclaim our giddy love for them! The second intention of this series of love stories is to offer a related thought about connecting to the land in our daily lives.
Shall we begin with the Silver Maple?
These days, it’s easy to know a Silver Maple. That’s because this tree is the most enthusiastic early bloomer of all the trees around here. In early March, Silver Maple’s bright red buds seem to grow larger each day. In fact, it’s pretty fair to say that if you find yourself admiring a tall tree’s buds in early March, you’ve just made friends with a Silver Maple. And we are not the only grateful ones; the return of these buds brings the return of playful squirrels bursting with energy in the treetops, fuelled by tasty snacks of Silver Maple buds. Any day now, the buds will begin to burst into thick clusters of soft red, yellow and green flowers, just in time for the season’s early pollinating insects. Looking closely at a branch, we found a colony of ants pursuing the sweet, waxy coating on the buds.
Another good place to find a Silver Maple is in or near water. These trees love to grow on lands that are covered in water for most or all of the year. We’ve been spending a lot of time in the swamp these days, which is an excellent place to spot a Silver Maple, standing tallest over stands of White Elm, Tamarack, and Cedar.
The tough Silver maple also grows well in the harsh front-lawn environment. Some wonderfully old trees can be found scattered in downtown Hamilton neighbourhoods. Some of our favourite city Silver Maples stand at Coulbourne and MacNab St, Ferguson and Rebecca St, along Park St South, and (possibly the biggest of all) along Dundurn St North. These city friends are easy to spot because a Silver Maple growing in the open can grow enormously tall and wide.
Our favourite way to know a Silver maple, easy all year round, is to get to know its unique bark. Silver Maple bark is grey and grows in long, layered
strips that sometimes delicately curl up a bit at the ends, especially on old trees. Give yourself a few minutes to observe, touch, appreciate, and get to know this bark, and you will never miss a Silver Maple!
By taking notice of the vibrant red buds flooding the city skies these days, we are giving our senses a treat. How many of our senses do we exercise in looking at signs, watching traffic, or letting our gaze settle on yet another crappy advertisement? The manufactured city landscape is an impoverishd sensory environment. but by learning about the Silver Maple and the other plants that share the city with us, we begin to see familiar friends in every crack and vacant lot. This refreshes our minds, sharpens our senses, and offers us a new way of looking (and smelling, hearing, touching, tasting) the spaces around us.