Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is a long-lived, deciduous hardwood tree, ranging from Nova Scotia west to Minnesota, south to Missouri and Kentucky, and in the Appalachian region to Tennessee and North Carolina. Scattered native stands exist south to Georgia and in the North Carolina Piedmont.
Sugar maple can grow over 100 feet tall, with a spread of up to 50 feet - It is one of the larger native hardwoods in the East. Green-yellow flowers emerge in early April, followed by light green leaves that mature to a deep, glossy green as the summer progresses. The trees turn a beautiful range of reds, golds and oranges in the fall, and a mature woods of sugar maple is striking in October against the deep blue sky.
Sugar maple is a very important tree ecologically, forming the climax forest alongside Beech in the Great Lakes, Northeast and Appalachian forest areas. Sugar maple is a very shade-tolerant tree, forming much of the understory and mid-canopy layers in maple-dominated forests.
Sugar maple is a very important species, economically. The lumber is prized for furniture, being used in cabinetry and flooring. The grain of the lumber can be very intricate and decorative, and takes stains and varnishes well.
Sugar maple also makes excellent fuel wood (firewood), as it is dense and burns long and hot. Sugar maple makes an excellent bed of coals, which is a good plus for burning in woodstoves.
The sap from Sugar Maple trees is boiled to make the familiar "maple syrup" - In days past (and present!) a "Sugar Bush" - grove of tappable sugar maples - was a prized possession.
Sugar maple is a larval host plant for quite a few varieties of butterflies and moths, and the pollen is collected by many different native bees. Songbirds like to nest in sugar maples, and sapsuckers will drill holes in the bark to access the sugar-sweet sap.
Sugar maple is a very reliable landscape tree, especially for larger landscapes. Sugar maple is somewhat unsuited for manicured lawns, as the thick root system competes with lawn grass. A better option would be to do away with a lawn if you have a natural sugar maple grove, and plant woodland wildflowers instead!
Sugar maples do best if their leaves are not raked, as the leaves decompose to form the humus topsoil found in undisturbed woods. Sugar maple is relatively easy to grow, especially in areas where it forms the climax forest. Seedlings establish and grow very quickly, and in most cases will outstrip larger potted trees within a few years.
Sugar maples are capable of growing very fast with good conditions - A sugar maple sapling planted in brown clay in front of the Nursery grew 5 feet in one year! 3 feet a year is not uncommon. Sugar maple is certainly a better candidate than silver maple, as the dense branches resist casting.
Sugar maple is beautiful when planted in groves - Plant trees about 8 to 10 feet apart for your own "sugar bush"! For full crown spread, plant trees 50 feet apart. Planting closer together (10-20 feet) will force the trees to grow more upright and less spreading, giving more of a classic "woodland" look.
|Common Name:||Sugar Maple|
|Botanical Name:||Acer saccharum|
|USDA Hardiness Zones:||3-8|
|Bloom Time:||Early April|
|Habit:||Oval in the Open; Straight and Clean-Boled in Forest Settings|
|Light Exposure:||Full Sun to Full Shade; Mesic Forests & Sunny Openings|
|Soil Moisture:||Average to Moist|
|Soil Texture:||Clay Loam to Sandy Loam|
|Soil PH:||Acidic to Neutral|
|Landscape Uses:||Shade Tree, Mass Plantings, Forest Establishment|
|Benefits:||Fast Growing, Brilliant Fall Color, Attractive Form|
|Ecological Function:||Pollen, Larval Host Plant, Seed, Forage, Shelter, Biomass Production|