Foreign Maple leaf on new Canadian bills unacceptable, says botanist

Katie Tower
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Local botanist Sean Blaney is upset that Canada’s new polymer bills feature the leaf of a “non-native, invasive species”, the Norway Maple, above left. Blaney feels a native species would be more appropriate, like the Sugar Maple, above right. PHOTO SUBMITTED

A local botanist is irked over Canada’s new polymer bills, which he says feature a non-native and invasive species of maple leaf that shouldn’t be used as a symbol on the country’s currency.

Sean Blaney, senior botanist of the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, said the transparent maple leaf window on the new $20, $50 and $100 bills depicts a Norway Maple leaf, which is surprising since there are so many other native species within Canada to choose from – including the familiar Sugar Maple that graces the nation's flag.

“A native species would be so much better than a non-native, invasive species,” said Blaney.

The Norway Maple, imported from Europe, has become common throughout North America and particularly plentiful throughout the Maritimes, said Blaney. But it has also been displacing some of Eastern Canada’s native species because of its heartiness and ability to grow well and densely in shady and wet conditions.

“They’re having a negative effect on other forest plants,” he said.

Blaney said he took notice of the maple leaf image on the new $20 bill as soon as it was released back in November. He said the Bank of Canada is not the first business or organization to use the Norway Maple as a Canadian emblem, as he caught the same mistake last year when Laurier University tried to use it in their new logo.

“I’ve seen it a number of times before.”

He said the leaf on the bill shows five lobes or sections, not the three you would normally see on the red leaf on the Canada flag, and the center lobe is shorter. It also has a more pointed outline than the Sugar Maple.

Although the Bank of Canada has denied the bills specifically depict a Norway Maple leaf in previous media reports, with a spokesperson explaining that the leaf was meant to be a stylized blend of different Canadian maple species, Blaney would argue otherwise.

“It’s too close a resemblance,” he said. “It’s a barely stylized copy, as far as I can see.”

He pointed out that the image on the bills looks nothing like any of the 10 maples native to Canada, but bears striking similarities to the Norway Maple.

Blaney said although some people may consider the error inconsequential, he thinks it’s important for to raise the issue and to make Canadians more aware of their national symbol.

“It’s not completely a trivial issue. I think it’s worth having people know that the species (of maple) on your street might not be native and may be creating problems for other species . . . and that maybe they should think about planting something else.”

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, Bank of Canada, Laurier University

Geographic location: Eastern Canada, Europe, North America

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Recent comments

  • Richard
    September 03, 2013 - 14:08

    In response to Jonathan, I would like to add that this discussion is about Canada and our heritage, not other countries issues and problems which is discussed in 10,000 other articles. I'm not sure why think that your an expert on how all Canadians should feel and react but maybe you should try keeping your opposition to this mans specialized knowledge to yourself unless you yourself are an educated professional in any way related to this article, which I HIGHLY doubt. I'm not saying we should spend tax payers hard earned money to replace the bills, but I would like to see new bills printed with a proper Canadian maple leaf.

  • Jonathan D.
    April 30, 2013 - 12:00

    It's a maple leaf. There are several wars being fought every day, people are starving, poor and sick. No sense complaining about a type of maple leaf. Way to go, hero!!