Spring has arrived and the Comfort Maple stirs from its winter rest to begin another year of growth on the small 0.20 hectare site managed by the Niagara Region Conservation Authority on Metler Road in the Town of Pelham, Ontario.
Scattered throughout the tree’s canopy, we can see clusters of pale, yellow-green flowers that appear on the tree several days before the buds burst to reveal new leaves. Both male and female flowers are present on most sugar maple trees with the female flowers being more concentrated in the upper branches. If Nature is kind, the female flowers will be pollinated by the wind with help from insects and seed development will be initiated.
Hidden amongst the grass and dandelions under this ancient tree, several new sugar maple seedlings peek their small leaves skyward, having recently germinated from seeds that fell from the tree last fall. Look carefully, they are there.
We returned again in early June to find the tree cloaked in green leaves and looking very much its regal self. We searched the depths of its canopy with binoculars to see if spring’s flowers had been pollinated by Nature to initiate seed development, and there they were – pea-green clusters of immature, double-winged samaras hanging from the branches, almost hidden by the tree’s darker leaves. Of the thousands of seeds that Nature provides every two to four years, only a small number will fall to the ground in a place where conditions favour seed germination and seedling growth.
Under the tree, we found branch clippings (short lengths of twigs bearing leaves and samaras) that had been cut from the tree’s canopy by a squirrel in its search for food. The seed cavities are hollow at this stage of their development and of little food value to nature’s creatures. Seed development will continue through the summer months with mature, viable maple seeds being readily visible on the tree’s branches as summer turns into fall. Like the brilliantly coloured leaves on the tree, the maple seeds will be scattered on the fall winds.
Heritage Canada has estimated its age at five hundred and fifty years.
The land on which the Comfort Maple grows was part of a 100-acre Crown Grant to the Secord family in 1808. The Comfort family has owned the land where the Comfort Maple stands since 1816.
- Carl Mansfield, Tree expert for Maple Leaves Forever.