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
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
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.
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.
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,
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
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.