British Columbia

Tree expert taps into the truth behind use of iconic maple leaf

The maple leaf appears on Canada's flag and currency, but tree expert David Tracey says the images are not replicas from the same tree.

Maple leaf on Canada's currency not inspired by indigenous sugar maple, but Norway maple says David Tracey

The sugar maple leaf is the inspiration for the iconic image on the Canadian flag. (CBC/North by Northwest)

The maple leaf is an iconic Canadian symbol, but according to one tree expert, the leaf that appears on the flag is not the same image printed on Canadian currency.

David Tracey, author of the Vancouver Tree Book, took a walk with CBC's North by Northwest host, Sheryl MacKay, and explained the differences between the leaf on the flag and the one on Canada's five-dollar bill.

"There is a bit of controversy over whether it's the correct maple on the money," said Tracey.

Tracey pointed out a sugar maple to MacKay and identified it as the leaf depicted on the national flag. The sugar maple is native to Canada and grows from coast to coast. 

The leaf on the five-dollar bill is a stylized Norway maple, said Tracey, which does not come from Canada, but is an interloper species from Europe. 

According to tree expert David Tracey, the stylized maple leaf on Canada's five dollar bill is a replica of the Norway maple, which is not from Canada. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

A similar mistake was made on the Canadian penny, noted Tracey.

He said the image on the penny cannot be a maple leaf because the leaves shown were alternately arranged on the stem rather than directly across from each other as with a maple.

Despite the inaccuracies, Tracey, a self-professed 'tree geek' is thrilled that the maple has achieved such recognition in Canada.

"How can you go wrong with a tree that gives you maple syrup?" he said.

With files from North by Northwest

To hear the complete interview click on the audio labelled 'Tree guy' David Tracey on Canada's iconic maple leaf.