Maple Street is a beautiful quiet residential street in Kitsilano that’s only 2 blocks from the busy Burrard thoroughfare. Originating from the park at Kits Beach, it passes through charming Kits Point residential blocks, heading south across Cornwall. East at that intersection there are many little cafes that offer great food and coffee. Maple then crosses 4th Avenue before ending at the tracks by 6th and the long established City Farmer Gardens. The City of Vancouver has allotted this area for community use and beautification on W 6th Avenue along the rail corridor, heading west at Burrard.
Maple Street picks up again to cross Broadway and continue south, but this beautiful gap in the street makes traffic much quieter than on nearby Arbutus, one block west.
The maple leaf is well known as the symbol of Canada, and its feature on the Canadian flag acknowledges that there are maple trees that grow in every province. Here, on the southwesterly tip of BC, the magnificent Bigleaf Maple can grow up to 30 m (100 ft) tall. Its wonderful leaves are among the largest of any tree and can be up to 60 cm (2 ft) wide. In spring small greenish-yellow flowers, about 3 millimetres across, appear, hanging in clusters from twigs. These then develop into hairy seeds, joined in pairs as a wing formation. The Bigleaf can be seen growing in mixed groups of trees with red alder, black cottonwood, Douglas-fir, western red cedar, and western hemlock.
First Nations people have long used the Bigleaf’s wood and bark to make all sorts of tools and implements. They also value its wood as a fuel source because it burns hot and clean. In fact, if the tree stump and emerging shoots are properly managed. a single tree can provide a steady supply of firewood for many decades.
Unlike the maples of the east, there is a low sugar concentration in Bigleaf sap, so it’s not a source for Canadian maple syrup.
One of the other maples that grow well here are the Vine Maple, which is a small tree or shrub and can grow into a dense thicket. The Vine Maple has a crooked, short trunk that can sometimes grow almost horizontally. Also successful is the Douglas Maple, which grows everywhere in BC but the north and the Queen Charlotte Islands. It can be seen as a shrub or a small tree, and its winged seeds, joined in a “V” shape, are food for birds and small animals.
Because of its close grain and moderate hardness, maple wood is used commercially for furniture, interior finishing, and musical instruments.
Next time you travel along Maple Street, take a moment to think about the source of its name – the magnificent trees that bring so much life and beauty to this area.