Sugar Maple
Acer saccharum
Family Aceraceae

* Leave 5-lobed, with deep notches between the lobes. Pale green undersides. 2-10".
* Bark gray, with rough vertical grooves.
* Twigs glossy, reddish-brown.
* Flowers yellowish, hanging in clusters at ends of twigs.
* Fruits winged, paired seeds, with veiny wings. The two wings are parallel or slightly divergent.
* Height: To 60', reaching 90' in some areas.

Natural History:
* Flowers April - June.
* Fruits June - September.
* Habitat: Deciduous forests.
* Range: Southern and central Canada to eastern United States.
* Native.

* Maple sugar and maple syrup have been made from the sugar maple's sap for hundreds of years. Early colonists learned the art of collecting and boiling sap from the Indians, who collected and boiled the sap in troughs made of elm bark or tree trunks.

* "There is in some parts of New England a kind of tree...whose juice that weeps out of its incisions, if it be permitted slowly to exhale away the superfluous moisture, doth congeal into a sweet and saccharin substance, and the like was confirmed to me by the agent of the great and populous colony of Massachusetts."
-Robert Boyle, English chemist, 1663

* A foray into certain woods of New England in late winter will be met with a sight that still matches the following description: "A wonderful transformation takes place in the sugar bush; with a stroke of heaven's wand, the winter-bound grove becomes a fairyland of blue and gold, picked out with red and green sap buckets like Christmas tree ornaments."
-Thomas Ripley, in 'A Vermont Boyhood."

* Sap is collected in early spring by inserting a tap into the wood of mature trees and collecting it in a bucket or a tube. It is then boiled down to varying consistencies to make syrup, maple sugar candy, and other maple sugar products. Forty gallons of sap boil down to only one gallon of syrup...And you wonder why the dining halls never have the real thing!

* Maple sugar contains bone-building phosphates that cause calcium retention in the body, and has been used in treatment of children with tuberculosis.

* Fall foliage enthusiasts agree that the sugar maple puts on the most dazzling display of color; its leaves can range from clear yellow to deep crimson to brilliant reds and oranges. Canadians loved the maple sugar leaf so much that they made it a national symbol. When the leaves fall in late October, try raking them into a pile and jumping in; it's a truly unique experience.

* The woodcut at the left, showing sap buckets and a sugar house, with steam from boiling sap rising from the chimney, comes from Donald Peattie's "A Natural History of Trees", Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950.


Created by: Allaire Diamond and Jiasuey Hsu
Maintained by: Nick Rodenhouse
Created: July 31, 1998
Last Modified: November 21, 2008