Well, this is embarrassing: According to botanists, Canada's brand new polymer $20 bill has the wrong maple leaf on it. Instead of choosing a maple leaf derived from any one of 13 species native to the country, the Bank of Canada appears to have chosen a leaf from an invasive species, the Norway maple. But despite the claims from scientists, the Bank of Canada says it has a perfectly good explanation.
Indeed, this wouldn't be the first time the currency-bombing Norway maple has made its way into Canadian iconography. Though the tree came to North America in the late 18th century (it was imported by a Philadelphian merchant who sold it to Canadian gardeners as an exotic adornment), it has appeared in such places as the official logos of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, the Natural History Museums of Canada, and the FIFA under-20 World Cup of Soccer.
But as senior botanist Sean Blaney recently told the CBC, "It's a species that's invasive in Eastern Canada and is displacing some of our native species, and it's probably not an appropriate species to be putting on our native currency."
Typically, the leaf of the sugar maple is used, and is the one featured on the Canadian flag.
In its defense, the Bank of Canada says that it's a "stylized blend" of Canadian maple species — a kind of amalgamation of several maple species. But Blaney — and others — are not impressed with this explanation:
"It seems a bit like an after-the-fact explanation to me. The bottom line is that, the image on the bill looks exactly like a Norway maple, however it was derived," he said.
University of Ottawa Prof. Julian Starr, also a research scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature, specializes in plant identification and classification.
He has been consulted by the Royal Canadian Mint about the botanical accuracy of its coins, but he was not shown this maple leaf.
"This could not be confused with a native species of Canada," said Starr. "It basically looks like a Norway maple."
According to the CBC, there are 400 million bank notes already in circulation, including $20, $50 and $100 bills. There are plans to print another 1.2 billion more bank notes, including $5 and $10 bills.