Characteristics of Sugar Maple Tree (Acer saccharum) in the Wild

Acer saccharum
Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is a species of flowering plant in the family Sapindaceae. This tree is native to hardwood forests in eastern Canada and the eastern United States.

Sugar maples come from areas with colder climates and require a hard freeze every winter for dormancy. In the northern part of the range, January temperatures average around 18 °C and July temperatures around 16 °C, in the south, January averages around 10 °C, and July averages almost 27 °C. Sugar maple seed germination also requires very low temperatures, the optimal temperature is just slightly above freezing, and no other tree species are known to possess this property. Sugar maple seed germination at temperatures above 10 °C is rarely successful.

Sugar maples are renowned for being a major source of maple syrup and their brightly colored fall foliage. It is also known as Rock maple, Sugar tree, Birds-eye maple, Sweet maple, Curly maple, and Hard maple.

THE SUGAR MAPLE LEAVE IS NOT THE CANADIAN FLAG EMBLEM

Although many people think that the sugar maple leaf is featured on the Canadian flag, the maple leaf on the flag does not belong to the maple species, although it may be similar to the sugar maple leaf. The leaves on the Canadian flag are specially designed to be identifiable on the flag waving in the wind regardless of whether they resemble the leaves of a particular species.

 

CONFUSION BETWEEN SUGAR MAPLE AND NORWAY MAPLE

Sugar maple can be confused with Norway maple, which is not native to America but is commonly grown in cities and suburbs, and they are not closely related in the genus. Sugar maples are most easily identified by the lymph on the petiole (Norway maples have white sap). Sugar maples have a rough bark on older trees (the bark of the Norway maple has small grooves). Also, the lobes of the Sugar maple leaves have a more triangular shape, in contrast to the square lobes of the Norway maple.

The sugar maple is a species of great importance to the ecology of many forests in the northern United States and Canada. Pure stands are common and are a major component of northern and midwestern US hardwood forests. Due to its need for cold winters, Sugar maple is mostly found in USDA growth zones 3-5. It is less common in the southern part of its range (USDA Zone 6) where the summers are hotter and humid.

 

Characteristics of Sugar Maple Leaf

Acer saccharum Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/srall

The leaves are deciduous, up to 20 cm long and broad, palmate, with five lobes and arranged in opposite pairs. The basal lobe is relatively small, while the upper lobe is larger and deeply grooved. Leaf color in fall is often spectacular, ranging from bright yellow to neon red-orange.

 

Characteristics of Sugar Maple Flower

Acer saccharum Flower
Source: inaturalist.org/jwalewski

The flowers are in panicles 5-10 together, yellow-green and without petals, flowering occurs in early spring. Sugar maples will generally begin to flower when they are 10 years old.

 

Characteristics of Sugar Maple Fruit

Acer saccharum Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/wnwills

The fruit is samaras, the seeds are round, the diameter is 7-10 mm and the wingspan is 2-3 cm. Seeds fall from the trees in autumn, where they must be exposed to temperatures below 4 °C for 45 days to break down the layers. Sugar maple germination is slow, and will not germinate once the soil has warmed and the frost has passed.

 

Characteristics of Sugar Maple Tree

Acer saccharum Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/gabrielnowak1

Sugar maple is a deciduous tree that can reach a height of 35 meters, and very high up to 45 meters. A 10-year-old tree is usually about 5 meters tall. Like most trees, sugar maples that grow in forests form much taller trunks and a narrower canopy than those that grow in open areas.

Sugar maples are shade tolerant of large deciduous trees. Like other maples, its shade tolerance is manifested in its ability to germinate and survive under a closed canopy as an understorey and responds with rapid growth to increased light created by gaps in the canopy. Sugar maple can also tolerate almost any type of soil with pure sand but does not tolerate swampy conditions.

Sugar maple wood is often used to make bowling alleys, bowling pins, basketball courts, and is a popular wood for baseball bats. The wood is also sometimes used in the manufacture of skateboards, gunstock, and wood flooring.

Sugar maples are ornamental and bonsai trees because they are easy to propagate and move, grow fairly quickly, and have beautiful fall colors.

 

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