Sugar Maple

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
The Sugar Maple is known primarily for its sweet sap which can be processed into syrup and its colorful leaves which change to hues of crimson, orange, and yellow in the fall. Many people think that the Canadian Flag takes its image from the sugar maple, but it is instead recognizable as a fusion of the different maple leaves.
Fabian Fernandez
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
34.50 m
Diameter at breast height: 
2.70 m

Maple bark grows in vertical strips that change color as the tree ages from light-grey to dark brown. These strips have long furrowed grooves, the edges of which begin to lift and break-off as the tree matures.
Twigs & branches
Sugar maples have thick trunks with darker bark which branches into sleek slender and reddish branches upon which the buds and leaves grow.
These are the first buds of the season (April 14, 2014). Sugar maples bloom distinct 5-lobe leaves (approx. 3-5") with a green coloration (dark outside and light underside). Maple leaves have three large veins running along its distinctive fan and jagged edges. In the fall sugar maple leaves change color gradually and at different times, painting a splendid arrangement of yellow, orange, and crimson foliage.
Reproductive Structures
Sugar maple trees grow green double samaras - paired wings that connect two seeds at the base. These flowers are atypical in that they have no leaves, no color, and no scent, only falling when they produce seeds. They dance in the air as they fall from the tree spinning like whirling dervishes.
  • Seasonal Leaf Change
  • Winter - January 2014
  • Maple Sugar Selfie (04/24/14) - Nature Walk
Natural range of distribution: 
Sugar Maples are located throughout the east coast, Midwest, and northern Canada. They are native to the hardwood forests living alongside yellow birches, beeches, American basswood, white ash, ironwood, and red oak. Sugar maples are extremely shade tolerant and are able to persist and grow hardily in the shade of taller plants. Sugar maples often leech moisture and nutrients from the soil through a network of fibrous surface roots, but their ability to engage in hydraulic lift provides water to the upper, drier soil layers benefitting the wildlife around the tree. Image credit: Elbert L. Little, Jr., USGS - USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center: Digital Representations of Tree Species Range Maps from "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. (and other publications)
Origin, history, and uses: 

Traditionally the Mohegans used the inner bark of sugar maples as a cough remedy and sweetening agent. Sugar maples are historic to Canada and Vermont because of their sweet sap used to make maple syrup. Sap is extracted by hammering a tap into the trunk, then subsequently collecting, boiling, and refining the sap. The wood itself is hard and dense and used in baketball courts, baseball bats, archery equipment, and musical instruments. Sugar maples are responsible for the richness of fall foliage in many North American landscapes.

Buds bloom in late May or early April. They produce male and female flowers which are pollinated and subsequently produce mature seeds which drop to the ground as double samaras. They change color in late September or early October blending red, orange, and yellow hues.

Identification of Sugar Maple


U.S. Government Tree Database:

Northern Ontario Plant Database:

Scientific Journal Articles on Sugar Maple:

Brisson, J., Bergeron, Y., Bouchard, A., & Leduc, A. (1994). Beech-maple dynamics in an old-growth forest in southern Quebec, Canada. Ecoscience (Sainte-Foy) 1 (1): 40-46.

Horton, J. L.; Hart, S.C. (1998). “Hydraulic lift: a potentially important ecosystem process”. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 13 (6): 232–235.

Hydraulic lift and its influence on the water content of the rhizosphere: an example from sugar maple, Acer saccharum []

Cultural/Social Interest

Native-American Practices: Tantaquidgeon, Gladys. 1972. Folk Medicine of the Delaware and Related Algonkian Indians. Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Historical Commission Anthropological Papers #3 (p. 69, 128)

Origins of Canadian Maple Leaf:

Hobby Maple Syrup Production:

Other information of interest: 

01/30/14: The Sugar Maple is a massive tree with a thick trunk and high branches forming an oval structure. It has hard light-brown bark and gnarled roots. Since it is still the depth of winter there are no leaves on the tree.

Media and Arts