25. Sugar Maple

(Acer saccharum)

Family: Aceraceae

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Across the lane north of the HUB lawn is an old Sugar Maple with an atypical concentration of heavy horizontal limbs emanating from its ashy gray trunk. Its leaves are as wide as they are long with 5 lobes each. The turn bright orange, red, and yellow in autumn often with different branches on the same tree changing at different times. This species displays the doubly winged seeds typical of maples that drop in autumn. Sugar maple is the most shade tolerant of all large deciduous trees.

The chief attributes of this species are its being a major component of forests in much of eastern North America, its warm fall color, its highly useful wood, and its sweet sap. When the trees are leafless in late winter, their sap rises and descends with the temperature, and people extract it to make maple syrup or sugar. Our climate is too warm in winter for commercially worthwhile sap harvest, but the trees grow well here. Bowling alleys and bowling pins are usually made of sugar maple wood, along with basketball courts. Many musical instruments are part sugar maple, including violin sides and backs, guitar necks, and drum shells. Pool cue shafts are another product of this fine timber species. Sugar maple leaves are packed around apples, root crops, and other such foods to help preserve them.

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