Two groups working to bring back sugar maple trees

The beauty and bounty of the Sugar maple tree is being replenished along some local roadways.

During the late 19th century, a government incentive program for farmers led them to plant maple trees from their woodlots along the roads. For that reason, people today see the red and orange canopy of leaves overhanging many rural Ontario roads during the fall.

But those trees are now more than 100 years old — they are dying and they are rarely being replaced.

The natural lifespan of a sugar maple is 400 years, but many are not surviving pollution, road salt, and development stress. There are 10 native Canadian maples, including Ontario’s sugar maple.

Genuine native Canadian maples are difficult to purchase. Many of the retail nurseries or garden centre maple stock is non-native. Those trees come from the United States, Europe, and Asia or are hybrid or cultivars crossbred from unknown seeds.

The GRCA is working with Maple Leaves Forever, a small registered charity, to plant 480 roadside maple trees this spring, mostly on private land. The trees will be planted in eight locations in Brant, Waterloo Region and IN Mapleton Township thanks to a partnership between the GRCA and Maple Leaves Forever.

The GRCA’s forestry specialists work with local landowners, select suitable sites and arrange for the planting of the maples. Half the cost of the trees is covered by the charity.

“We talk to the landowners. If they show an interest in roadside maples, we apply to this program on their behalf,” said GRCA forestry specialist Jessica Robbins.

Maple trees are particular and need to be carefully planted at the right depth, with the right species selected.

A row of sugar maple trees were planted along Jones Baseline Road east of Guelph last spring and now the program has expanded.

Robbins said that maple trees grown in the GRCA’s nursery at Burford are native and the nursery expects to be added to this list of certified nursery stock providers sometime in 2011.

For a list of certified nurseries and other information on this organization visit

Property owners interested in roadside maples next year can call Jessica Robbins at 519-621-2763 extension 2277. For more information about Maple Leaves Forever, call 416-255-0385.