March 31, 2020

Syrupy Sweet

Acer saccharum - Sugar maple

Mark Uchneat Photo | Acer saccharum – Sugar maple

In the Northeast, one of the loveliest natives is Acer saccharum, best known as the sugar maple. It is the main source of maple syrup (turns out black maple, A. nigrum, does its best to pitch in), with sap collected in late winter and early spring. It also is a prized wood due to its hard, dense qualities. From a purely asthetic view, the sugar maple is an elegant deciduous tree, well-known for its brilliant autumn colors that can range from orange to red-orange to yellow, such as the one above photographed by Mark Uchneat. What may surprise you, however, is what a considerate neighbor the sugar maple can be. It turns out that sugar maples use their long roots to draw water up from deep in the ground during the day. At night, the shallow roots lose the water into the higher ground instead of saving the water for the next day. The resulting moistening of the topsoil helps plants growing within the root zone of the maple, especially during droughts. This function is called hydraulic lift.

Photographed by Mark Uchneat.