YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
There is a good chance you’ve seen something related to this featured topicat some point this week—maybe even today!
They tower above us, give us shade, create sweet treats, help us breathe, and change colours throughout the year.
Any idea yet?
If you guessed maple trees, you’re right!
Curious how a tree can be Wowzerful? Keep reading to find out!
You’ll find maple trees throughoutAsia,Europe,North America, and even the northern regions of Africa!
But the maple trees I see just outside my window could be quite different from the ones you see outside yours.
In fact, there are 128 maples species known to exist today!
This is because maples are a truly ancient group of trees.
Fossil records indicate that many species were around as much as 100 million years ago!
This means that Triceratops and other Cretaceous period dinosaurs might have chowed down on maple leaves!
While big shady trees probably come to mind, the mature size of maples varies greatly between species.
In fact, maples are a popular option for bonsais, growing to be only a handful of centimetres (or inches) tall.
In contrast,the world’s largest known maple tree was a bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)which stood an astounding 48.2 metres (158 feet) tall with its foliage spreading out 27.4 metres (90 feet) from end to end.
Even the leaves can vary from species to species, with some producing leaves with as few as one lobe or as many as 13 lobes!
Maples can reach these sizes because many live up to 300 years, with some living much longer.
Their biggest threats are humans and pests.
The Asian long-horned beetle has threatened maple trees across Canada and the northern United States, killing thousands of trees.
Fungal diseases are also of concern but are easier to resolve with proper care of the infected trees.
But maples are not just a pretty shade tree.
They’re also the source of maple syrup—one of the sweetest and most popular syrups on the planet.
This is made by collecting the runny sap from sugar maples (Acer saccharum) then boiling it down to a rich and tasty treat.
It can take up to 40 litres (42 quarts) of sap to make just a single litre(1.1 quarts) of syrup!
They’re also a major source of pollen in early spring, often jumpstarting the process of waking beehives from hibernation and providing them with an ample food source while more delicate plants and flowers wake up around the hives.
Maple is even a popular wood used for musical instruments due to its ability to carry sound well.
Drums, woodwinds, string instruments, and even rock-and-roll guitars can all feature maple wood bodies or trim elements!
Finally, maples are one of the most obvious parts of the fall colour change you might be seeing as we head toward Fall and Winter in the northern hemisphere.
While all deciduous trees will lose their leaves as the weather cools each season, maples do so with a stunning display of reds, yellows, and oranges before they fall and pile up for you to jump in!
The beauty of maple trees in the fall contributes to tourism around the world with people flocking to see the stunning displays as temperatures begin to wind down.
So the next time you’re enjoying the outdoors, keep an eye out for the majestic maple, and take a moment to appreciate everything these beautiful trees do for our Wowzerful world!
If you’d like to see a magnificent maple up close and personal, the Comfort Maple of Pelham, Ontario stands 2.45 metres (80 ft) tall and is one of the oldest sugar maples in Canada.
Maple tree seeds (also known as samaras) make a great toy with their helicopter-like whirling motion. But they’re not just fun. That gliding motion can help seeds float for shocking distances when caught in the right breeze!
In warmer climates (plant hardiness zones 7-9), some maples don’t change colour at all! Instead, they behave like evergreens, remaining green and leafy all year round.
Japanese maples take the colour show to the next level. They can be seen in a range of pale pinks and coral tones that you don’t typically see on North American maple varieties.Sounds pretty Wowzerful to us!
Explore how maple trees change throughout the year, and how that can help us to think about the world around us!