A useful approach to monitor tree response to climate change and environmental extremes is the recording of long-term time series of stem radial variations obtained with precision dendrometers. Here, we study the impact of environmental stress on seasonal growth dynamics and productivity of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britton) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) in the Great Lakes, St Lawrence forest region of Ontario. Specifically, we research the effects of a spring heat wave in 2010, and a summer drought in 2012 that occurred during the 2005-14 study period. We evaluated both growth phenology (onset, cessation, duration of radial growth, time of maximum daily growth rate) and productivity (monthly and seasonal average growth rates, maximum daily growth rate, tree-ring width) and tested for differences and interactions among species and years. Productivity of sugar maple was drastically compromised by a 3-day spring heat wave in 2010 as indicated by low growth rates, very early growth cessation and a lagged growth onset in the following year. Sugar maple also responded more sensitively than yellow birch to a prolonged drought period in July 2012, but final tree-ring width was not significantly reduced due to positive responses to above-average temperatures in the preceding spring. We conclude that sugar maple, a species that currently dominates northern hardwood forests, is vulnerable to heat wave disturbances during leaf expansion, which might occur more frequently under anticipated climate change.