Sugar Maple – Acer saccharum

Plant Family: Aceraceae – Maple family

Sugar Maple Bark

Bark of a very old Sugar Maple tree.

The Sugar Maple Tree (Acer saccharum) is famous for its sugar, but it also has many other desirable characteristics that make it a beloved tree of foresters.

The uses of Sugar Maple (hard maple) for lumber are wide and varied, but highly sought after where ever heavy, tough wood is needed.  Some of the most beautiful gun stocks ever made, are made of figured Sugar Maple.  When grown under certain stresses the wood obtains a variegated appearance and this leads to the creation of tiger stripe, or curly maple.  The closer and denser the curl  pattern, the more expensive the wood, and it can get very expensive.  Other types of figured maple are bird’s eye maple, which has many spots, and quilted maple which somewhat mottled.

Sugar Maple Forest

Sugar Maple and other trees in a northern hardwood forest.

Clear straight-grained wood of Sugar Maple makes excellent flooring, , cabinets, and butcher blocks.   Unlike oak and ash the wood of non-figured maple is clear and straight grained.  It also nearly white in appearance and so can be stained in a wider variety of colors.  The light wood makes excellent flooring not only because it is tough as nails, but also because it reflects light and can brighten a room or the basketball court.

Sugar Maple Seedlings

Sugar Maple seedlings.

Sugar Maple sap contains a fair amount of sugar, and has a sweet taste by itself.  Boiling off of much of the water concentrates the sugar and creates maple syrup, or if all the water is removed, maple sugar.  There are two frequently cited ratios for the sap required to make syrup.  One is the rule of 86 or 86:1 and the other 40:1, so with rule of 86 it would take 86 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  The ratios are different because the amount of sugar concentration in the sap can vary from tree to tree and from year to year.  Other species in the genus Acer can make good syrup, but the sap can either have less sugar, or an off taste.

Sugar Maple Seedling Forest

This forest is covered with a dense carpet of shade tolerant Sugar Maple Seedlings.

Open Grown Sugar Maple

The low branches on a tree such as this Sugar Maple indicate that it initially grew out in the open.

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