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Banknote bungle: Maple leaf on Canada's new $20 bill is ...Norwegian?

Published time: January 19, 2013 13:24
Edited time: January 19, 2013 17:24
The new Canadian 20 dollar bill made of polymer is displayed at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa.(Reuters / Chris Wattie)

The new Canadian 20 dollar bill made of polymer is displayed at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa.(Reuters / Chris Wattie)

The Bank of Canada has found itself in the center of a leafy controversy after botanists claimed it placed the ‘wrong’ maple leaf on its new polymer bills – not the Canadian sugar maple leaf represented on the national flag.

Sean Blaney, a botanist who tracks plants for the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center in New Brunswick, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that the Bank of Canada put the “wrong” maple leaf on the new version of the C$20 bill.

Though the differences between the Norway maple and Canada's native sugar maple may not be obvious to everyone, the Norway leaf has more sections and a more pointed outline, he explained.

The Norway maple tree has been naturalized in Canada after it was introduced to the country in the 18th century.

“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,” Blaney told CBC News.

Blaney suggested that the prevalence of the Norway maple in Canada could be the reason why its leaf was chosen for the latest version of the C$20 bill.

Bank of Canada has denied the charge, and stated that the image was specifically designed to represent a combination of various kinds of species instead of a particular one. “It is not a Norway maple leaf. It is a stylized maple leaf and it is what it ought to be,” Bank of Canada currency spokesperson Julie Girard said, adding that the Norway maple leaf is more rectangular.

Bank of Canada consulted a dendrologist, a botanist who specializes in trees and shrubs, during the making of the symbol, Girard added. “On the advice of this expert, steps were taken to ensure that the design of the leaf in the secondary window is not representative of a Norway maple,” she said.

But Blaney argued that the image looks nothing like any of the 10 maple trees native to Canada.

“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.

Another Canadian expert, University of Ottawa professor and Canadian Museum of Nature research scientist Julian Starr, was earlier consulted by the Royal Canadian Mint about the botanical accuracy of the coins. Starr confirmed that the image is a Norway maple leaf.

“You can say it’s stylized. But it’s stylized to the point where it doesn’t look like any native species at all,” he told CTV News. “It basically looks like a Norway maple.”

Other organizations have confused the two types of maples trees as well, including the official logos of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, the FIFA under-20 World Cup of Soccer, the Canadian Television Fund and the Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada, CBC reported.

The Bank of Canada has run into problems with its new polymer bills before. Currently, Canada is in the process of switching from cotton-paper bank notes to polymer ones. The new notes are deemed to be more secure and environmentally friendly.

Canada released its first polymer C$100 banknote on November 14, 2011, followed by the C$50 banknote on March 26, 2012, and the C$20 banknote on November 7, 2012. New polymer $5 and $10 bills are expected to be released by the Bank of Canada later this year.

Back in August, the Bank of Canada was accused of racism and forced to apologize after media revealed that the image of an Asian lab assistant on its new C$100 banknote had been replaced with a woman who looked more Caucasian, after focus groups responded that Asians should not be the only group represented.

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