We measured stem respiration rates during and after the 1994 growing season of three common boreal tree species at sites near the northern and southern boundaries of the closed-canopy boreal forest in central Canada. The growth respiration coefficient (rg; carbon efflux per μmole of carbon incorporated in structural matter) varied between 0.25 and 0.76, and was greatest for black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.), least for jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) and intermediate for trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.). There was a consistent trend for higher rg at northern sites than at southern sites. Maintenance respiration rates at 15 °C (rm) varied from 0.5 to 2.7 nmol C mol−1 Csapwood s−1. Values of rm were high at sapling-stage jack pine sites and mature black spruce sites, and low at mature trembling aspen and mature jack pine sites. We found significant relationships between annual maintenance respiration and sapwood relative growth rate and sapwood volume per unit of stem surface area that explained much of the within-stand and between-stand variability. Because of the large differences in parameter values among sites, we conclude that the use of stand-specific respiratory parameters may improve model predictions of ecosystem process models over the use of generic parameter values.