Sugar Maple

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
This tree is commonly known as the Sugar Maple and belongs to the Sapindaceae family. It is situated on a bed of ivy near Prospect street. One defining characteristic of this particular tree is the way it is slanted. It has a very prominent curvature and it started growing leaves in the beginning of April.
Alicia Cazares, Afrin Tarafder, Kai Padilla-Smith
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
13.20 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.23 m

The bark is a dark-grey color and hard, with regular thin ridges that wrap around the circumference. The patterning is fairly consistent, without any large knots or deviations in the ridges. Some maple trees are prized for the special patterns that develop in the bark, especially birdseye maple which has dots that seem to be the eyes of a bird and curly/fiddle-back maples with wavy rings.
Twigs & branches
The branches splay out from the trunk evenly from about ten feet until the top of the tree. There is one unusually long branch facing north. The branch bark is similar to the bark on the trunk, though the branches are much thinner, and lack ridges like the trunk.
Sugar maple leaves are 5-lobed, with 3 much larger and squarish lobes below the leaves' pointed tips, and two more reduced basal lobes. These leaves may have 5 to 11 points along the blade, though the edges between these points are largely smooth. The leaves grow to about 6 inches long and 7 inches wide, with a stalk about the same length as the whole blade. The upper surface of the leaf is usually a dark yellow-green and smooth, and the lower surface is usually lighter and largely smooth as well but may have some fine hairs along major veins. Sugar maples are also deciduous, and thus turn yellow, red, or orange in the fall before losing their leaves.
Reproductive Structures
Sugar Maples take usually begin producing flowers around 22 years of age, and reach full bloom anywhere from late March to early May depending on the region, and about 1 to 2 weeks prior to leaf formation. These dicot flowers are long-pedicelled in shape, arranged in panicles or hanging clusters of 5 to 10 flowers, yellow in color, have no petals, and are quite small, often about 2.5 inches in size. The reproductive structures for both males and females appear in all flowers, however, usually, only one sex is functional within a flower. Often, only male flowers can be found in the lower branches, though a mix of both is found in higher branches, and it is not uncommon for certain major branches to produce flowers of only one sex.
The fruit of Sugar Maples is called the double samara, as samaras are found in pairs. Samara is a dry, indehiscent fruit, and a type of winged achene, with this wing formed by a wall or casing that extends to one side of the fruit. Samaras are often referred to as helicopter seeds as they spin through the air as they fall, similar to a helicopter. Usually only one of the paired samaras develops a small seed less than half an inch in size, though there are exceptions where both have seeds or neither, and some samaras have even been found in triplets, or a single samara has "double wings." The fruit takes about 16 weeks to ripen, changing from a light green to a light brown when fully ripe, and falls off the tree about 2 weeks after ripening, just before the leaves begin to fall. These fruits are also edible, eaten by many small mammals like squirrels and chipmunks, and edible for people too if the casing is first removed. However, since this method of dispersal by animals is quite minimal, the helicopter shape of the fruit is the main method of spreading seeds far away from the large canopies of the parent tree.
  • Winter Image, March 1st
  • Spring Image, April 24th
Natural range of distribution: 
Native to Missouri, the natural habitat of this species of Sugar Maple spreads across Eastern North America and is especially abundant in the eastern and midwestern US and southern Canada. This tree grows best in cool, moist climates and slightly acidic, deep, fertile, well-drained soils. Sugar maples are rarely found in swamps or in shallow, poorly-drained soil.
Origin, history, and uses: 

Sugar maple trees today are one of the most important species economically, as they are the main source of maple sup, often tapped in the early spring when sugar content is the highest. Each tree may produce about 5 to 60 gallons of sap, which is then boiled to produce maple syrup. Its hardwood is also very valuable with uses ranging from furniture, flooring, bowling pins, bowling alleys, tool handles, musical instruments, veneers, cutting blocks, etc. Certain trees also have special grain patterns that are especially desirable for cabinets, especially birds-eye maple. The wood is also a very good fuel producing lots of heat and hot embers and leaving ash rich in alkali and potash.

Furthermore, these uses are not too different from historical uses by indigenous communities. Many Native American groups such as the Algonquin, Cherokee, Dakota, and Iroquois used maple sap to make maple syrup and sugar. The Potawatomi were even known to use maple sugar when cooking instead of salt. The Ojibwa also used maple sap to make vinegar that when mixed with sugar made sweet and sour meat. The wood was used as lumber and furniture by the Cherokee, to make paddles, torch handles, and oars by the Malecite, and to make cooking tools by the Ojibwa. The bark was also used by the Micmac as a beverage. Additionally, the tree was also considered to have medicinal properties, as the Iroquois used maple sap to treat many eye problems, and the Mohegans used the inner bark as a cough medicine.

As a deciduous tree, the tree leaves begin to grow in the spring and remain green until the fall when they turn bright yellow, orange, and red, and then lose their leaves in the winter. In late winter, sugar maples begin producing their sap, and the sugaring season begins starting around February or early March. Then, starting from when the tree is 10 to 22 years old, flowers also begin to bloom in the late spring season, for about a month in total. The samara fruit will begin to form during this time and ripen between late summer and early autumn, dropping from the tree about two weeks after ripening. Early growth is slow but as the tree's roots become more complex and deep, and when the tree receives ample light, growth quickens. Mature trees can reach about 200 to 300 years old and have a total height of 90 to 120 feet.
Other information of interest: 

Here is a montage of the tree’s growth from February through April:…