Maples belong to the family of Sapindaceae. Most of them are deciduous. Their small yellow, orange, red or green flowers attract bees which pollinate them. Their fruit, samaras, are dry and winged (they are often called ‘helicopters’).
There are many different species of maples, originally from the mountains of Europe, the Mediterranean region, North America and Asia. One of the most well-known is the sugar maple or rock maple. It is one of the most important trees in Canada and Ontario and has been designated Canada’s national tree (a maple leaf even adorns the Canadian flag). It is a hardwood tree, pale in colour and with dense fibres, which can reach heights of 35 metres and live up to 400 years. Preferring deep and humid soils, it can survive in the shade, but grows in sunlight.
In North America, maples are used for the production of maple syrup and a number of by-products such as sugar, sweets or maple butter. Their wood is used to make floors or furniture, but is also used as firewood, as it gives off a lot of heat and burns slowly. Finally, some species with distinctive leaves and flowers are used as ornamental shrubs.