The canopies of northern hardwood forests dominated by sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) were examined at five locations spanning 800 km along an add deposition and climatic gradient in the Great Lakes region. Leaf area index (LAI) calculated from litterfall ranged from 6.0 to 8.0 in 1988, from 4.9 to 7.9 in 1989, and from 5.3 to 7.8 in 1990. The data suggest that maximum LAI for the sites is between 7 and 8. Insect defoliation and the allocation of assimilates to reproductive parts in large seed years reduced LAI by up to 34%. Allometric equations for leaf area and foliar biomass were not significantly different among sites. They predicted higher LAI values than were estimated from litterfall and could not account for the influences of defoliation and seed production. Canopy transmittance was a viable alternative for estimating LAI. Extinction coeffidents (K) of 0.49 to 0.65 were appropriate for solar elevations of 63° to 41°. Patterns of specific leaf area (SLA) were similar for the sites. Average sugar maple SLA increased from 147 cm² g-1 in the upper 5 m of the canopy to 389 cm² g-1 in the seedling layer. Litterfall SLA averaged 196 cm² g-1 for all spedes and 192 cm² g-1 for sugar maple. Similarity among the sites in allometric relationships, maximum LAI, canopy transmittance, and patterns of SLA suggests these characteristics were controlled primarily by the similar nutrient and moisture availability at the sites. A general increasing trend in litter production along the gradient could not be attributed to N deposition or length of growing season due to year to year variability resulting from insect defoliation and seed production. For. Sci. 37(4):1041-1059.