Maple Trivia

he Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team is the only professional sports team named for a tree (or tree parts).

One U. S. coin (Vermont quarter) and two Canadian coins depict sugar maples or parts of them.

The maple leaf is the national symbol of Canada and appears on currency, flags, and government logos.

The Province of Quebec produces more maple syrup than all other US states and Canadian provinces combined (in 1998 they made over 4.9 million gallons or 18.5 million litres).

The State of Vermont produces the most maple syrup of any US State in 2001 that was 275,000 gallons or 104,096 liters.

The only regions of the world that have a distinctive colorful autumn season (foliage season) are eastern America and western Asia; both places that are dominated by hardwood forests containing significant numbers of maple species.

Vermont has the highest concentration of maple trees (particularly sugar and red maple) in its forests of any state. Not only does it explain why Vermont produces so much maple syrup, but it is why Vermont has some of the nation's most spectacular fall foliage.

The three US. States declared the sugar maple as state tree in 1948. They were Wisconsin, Vermont and West Virginia. New York declared the sugar maple as its state tree in 1956. Only the white oak represents as many US states.

The Maple Society recognizes 124 species of maples; 78 subspecies and eight varieties. Thirteen of these are native to the US. and Canada.

The genus Acer originated in China and spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The greatest abundance of maples according to the fossil record was during the Miocene ( 25 to 5 million years before the present. Subsequent periods of glaciation isolated pockets of the genus and helped to give rise to the various species. Over 180 species of maple have identified as fossils. (From Maples of the World, p. 65).

Acer saccharum or sugar maple is not the only maple that can produce syrup; red maple, box elder and Norway maple (Acer plananoides) have been tapped and potential for syrup from the western bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) has also been tested. Sap from other trees including birch can be boiled down to a sweet and sticky consistency. The sap of sugar maple and its close relative black maple (Acer nigrum) have the highest natural sugar content and the most pleasant natural flavor. They also grow in regions where the spring weather conditions favor the daytime spring surges of sap that are easy to collect and process.

Although maple sugaring is not practiced, in some parts of Asia, maple sap is collected and drunk fresh as a beverage in the spring.

While the sugar content of sap varies somewhat, it takes roughly 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.

First metal maple tap patented by Eli Mosher in 1860.

Some of the same principles used by vintners to make fine wine are used by the maple industry. An example is the measurement of sugar content using the Brix or Baumé systems.

In eastern North America sugar maple is the leading species of forest growing stock in one state (Vermont) and on the endangered species list of another (Delaware) less than 800 miles away!

Exotic maple species including Norway and sycamore maple are listed as invasive (weed) species in several states. A native North American maple, box elder (A. negundo) is also on the invasive list in some US states and in European countries.

"Snakebark maples," are a group of shrubs and small trees with distinctive bark markings the members exhibit. Striped maple is have distinctively striped bark. Striped maple (A. pennsylvanicum) is a member of the group of the only North American representative of this group. All other snakebarks are natives of Asia. Snakebark maples are prized for the art of bonsai. (Maples of the World)

Sugar maple trees are native to North America, and when planted in Europe, they almost never flower (Maples of the World, p. 192)

Red maple (Acer rubrum) has some structure on the tree that is red in every season. In winter, the buds are red, in spring, the flowers are red, and in autumn, the leaves often turn fiery red. In summer, the petioles or leave stems are red.

Because red maple flowers come out very early in the spring, they are important first source of nectar for honeybees.

People allergic to tree pollen usually aren't much affected by maple pollen. Maple is pollinated by insects so there are only a tenth of the number of pollen grains in a maple flower than in a typical wind-pollinated tree flower such as those of oak, birch, or ash. Maples also flower earlier in the spring, so their pollen isn't out at the same time as many other trees.

In North America, the only maple that doesn't have a palmate leaf (shape like the palm of your hand) with distinct lobes is the box elder (Acer negundo) which is also called "Ash-leaf maple" because it has a compound leaf like members of the ash family. But, world-wide, maples exhibit many leaf shapes including oval and lance-shaped, and can be evergreen rather than deciduous. What all maples have in common is the distinctive winged seed called a samara and an opposite branching pattern of their twigs.

The vine maple (Acer circinatum) leaf symbolizes the rank of major and lieutenant colonel in the US. Army. Specimens of vine maple were collected by the explorers Lewis and Clark on their historic exploration of the American West. (p. 113, Maples of the World).

In North America, sugar maple (and in some places, black maple) is known as "hard" or "rock maple" and is used for durable furniture and flooring (including that of bowling alleys). It is also prized for firewood when seasoned properly. Although not as valuable, red or "soft" maple is a versatile wood that can be used for a variety of structural products.

Black and sugar maple can produce interesting "grains" or patterns in the wood. This is known variously as "curly", "tiger" or "bird's eye" maple and valued for cabinet making.