It’s Maple Syrup Season
Many people have heard of the tree species sugar maple, it produces deliciously sweet sap that we turn into maple syrup. Conditions are ideal for tapping maple trees to collect sap when day temperatures are about plus five degrees Celsius and night temperatures are about minus five degrees Celsius.
Sugar maple trees are the most commonly tapped maple species because they have the highest concentration of sugar in their sap. But sugar maple is not the only maple species within the Credit River Watershed.
The watershed is home to twelve maple species (Acer species.). Eight of these are native species:
- Sugar maple
- Black maple
- Red maple
- Mountain maple
- Manitoba maple
- Striped maple
- Silver maple
- Hybrid maple
The other four are non-native species:
- Hedge maple
- Amur maple
- Norway maple
- Sycamore maple
Maples have a distinct leaf shape and fruit. Maples have leaves divided into three to five sections called lobes. The leaves are paired, meaning they are arranged opposite to each other on a branch. Maples have small flowers, that appear in spring and rely on wind to be pollinated. Maples have fruits called samaras, with a pair of seeds surrounded by two broad wings. In autumn, the fruits can be seen falling from the trees, spinning like a helicopter blade before landing on the ground.
Discovering Other Maples
A sugar maple leaf is an iconic symbol in Canada. It’s featured at the centre of our national flag and, it’s the most dominant maple in the watershed. Let’s get to know some of the other native maples that are in the watershed.
Black maple is closely related to sugar maple. Although its leaves look similar to a sugar maple, black maple leaves are often droopy-looking, have a less defined shape and are hairy on the underside. Black maple can be found in moist soil and along watercourses.
Red maple is named after its red buds which are visible in spring, its red leaf stalk seen in summer and its beautiful red leaves in autumn. These maples are often found in moist soil such as swamps but can thrive in a wide variety of areas.
Mountain maple is Canada’s smallest maple. It has shrubby growth, often with multiple stems and is found in the understory of forests. Mountain maple grow in rocky slopes and streamsides. They play an important role in preventing erosion along streambanks and slopes.
Manitoba Maple are also known as box elder. It’s the only maple in the watershed without the traditional maple leaf look. Its leaf is divided into three or five leaflets that closely resemble those of ash trees (Fraxinus species). It’s fast growing and short lived, often found in floodplains and stream banks.
CVC’s Integrated Watershed Monitoring Program (IWMP) collects health data on sugar maple and other forest tree species. Explore the IWMP Storymap to learn about stressors that are affecting the health of our forests.
And now that we have tapped your interest in maples, be sure to join us at Island Lake or Terra Cotta Conservation Areas for the last week of maple syrup events. Hurry before the season is finished!
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By Emily Stacy, Technician, Watershed Monitoring
Paperbark maple is available as a decorative tree. Is it native?
Hi David! No, paparbark maple (Acer griseum) is not native to Ontario. It’s native to mixed forests in China. A native alternative to paperbark maple you could try is Red Maple. It is know for its stunning fall colour.