Maple Trees Offer More Than Shade

Maple trees sweeten our life with shade, fall color, wood products and syrup. See what social events they inspire.

Maple trees line a path in the fall woods
Maple trees lean over the path dropping leaves wherever.

Do you remember your first tree?  It was taller than you – could you see the top?  Were there animals coming and going?

How did the bark feel? Smooth, rough or maybe you didn’t want to touch it because there were insects running over it.

My first tree was the large maple in our small backyard where I lived until I was seven years old.

It was the only large tree in the backyard giving us shade from the western sun in the afternoon. Just behind our fence the woods added to the late day shade.

Some of my first animals used the big maple. My first raccoon climbed to a high branch, settling on it to watch us in safety.

Squirrels chased each other all around the trunk in a spiral, clinging to the nubby sides of it.

Chipmunks scurried for cover underneath the bottom of the trunk– where did they go? I ran around and around looking for them.

And birds! Blue Jays loved to perch and call out. Robins sang sweet tearful tunes, their nests built too high for me to reach. 

Cardinals’ chipped their sound and were easy to spot because of their bright red color.

So much fun to play in too. Dad raked up large yellow leaves that covered the green grass in autumn. He made a giant pile for us.

We loved to jump and scoot and fling them around. Then I guess he had to rake them up again!

Before we moved from the house, I gave that large maple tree a hug . At seven years old, I could not get my arms around the trunk. I hugged as much of that rough textured tree trunk as I could.

Yellow maple leaf in the grass.
Random Maple leaf from another yard.

My Grandmother, Canadian born and raised, later became an American citizen but kept maple leaf symbols around her house – a reminder of her heritage. 

I didn’t know until I was older that the Canadian flag bears an eleven point symbol of a maple leaf between two red bars.

In my yard I could have had my own tree farm or forest by now because of all the little seedlings that pop up from a neighbor’s tree.

They grow where they land – flower beds, the lawn and underneath shrubs. I pull them out.

That old tree has since been taken down. Another maple tree’s seedlings from I don’t know where, still surprise me every summer.

Maple tree seedling.
Maple tree seedling tries to reforest the yard.

Features

Native to:  Eastern and Central North America.

Cultivars have different sizes, leaf color, soil requirements. Talk to an arborist or nursery tree expert about which is best for your yard.

Zones: 3-9

Leaves: Three to five pointed lobes with toothed edges, medium to dark green on top, lighter green to grey green on bottom side.

Blooms:  Flowers in fringy clusters, later becoming fruits with 2 wings – the whirligigs that blow off the tree in early summer.

Height: 30 feet – 130 feet

Width:  30 feet – 50 feet

Grows from:  Seeds

Care

  • Sunlight:  Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil: Average, well-drained but can tolerate clay soil, some cultivars like the soil slightly acid.
  • Water:  Medium to wet.
  • Fertilize: Usually not necessary.

Problems/Pests

The roots spread far and wide in the yard. Roots tend to be the culprits in overtaking and breaking down plumbing pipelines, driveways and sidewalks.

Before planting find out how far the roots’ reach can be. Locate the tree far enough away from hardscape.

Some are not pollution tolerant.

Pests:  Asian long horned beetle weakens the tree, causing branches to break and fall.

Diseases: Anthracnose, leaf scorch, leaf spot, tar spot and fungi like powdery mildew and verticillium wilt.

Uses

In the home garden it’s a shade tree and home for birds and animals. They’re grown in some areas to control erosion or manage surface water like runoff after rain.

Find wood from maple trees in furniture, flooring, plywood, veneer, musical instruments and toys.

The sugar maple produces sugar and syrup.

Maple tree seedling with roots.
Maple tree seedling.

Celebrations of the Maple Tree

Fall foliage trips celebrate the colorful change of many kinds of trees, but you can’t miss the brilliant long-lasting color of the maple trees.

Every year there are predictions for peak foliage times. If you’re planning a trip, the area you want to visit usually has predictions for the best time to visit.

There are drive tours, train trips, fall festivals, hikes and even times and places to watch for migrating birds heading south for the winter.

Maple syrup festivals generally run from February through April. They’re held when sap collection is at its peak.

The sap production depends on the climate of each region. Search online to find the specific dates of festivals.

Sap collected from the trees is turned into maple sugar and maple syrup – a good reason to celebrate!

Activities might include: carrying buckets of tree sap, parades, carnival rides, wagon or train rides, hikes and demonstrations of candy and syrup making.

Learn all about lumberjacking. When tired from watching someone else do all that hard work, eat lots of food that uses maple products like pancakes and sausage covered in syrup! Or how about ice cream with maple syrup drizzled over it?

Canada has many events in honor of the maple tree too.

Four seasons of beauty plus celebrations of their colors and products – how sweet!

References

The Canadian Encyclopedia

Michigan State University

The Tree Center

Copyright Juli Seyfried 2019

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juli

Juli is a writer and serious gardener. She gardens a small yard in an older suburban neighborhood. There is a lot of problem-solving and fun on a small property. She likes to share what she's learned. She learns from others too.

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