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Sugar Maple in the PNW?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 53
Location: Olympia, WA
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Does anyone have experience with growing Northeast Sugar Maple in the pacific northwest? Obviously Bigleaf/Oregon Maple does well here, and so I'm wondering what, if anything, would prevent Sugar Maple from thriving in that niche and producing a syrup yield on top of the regular leaf litter and timber yield that maples can provide.

Has anyone successfully incorporated sugar maple into a food forest here? Are their microclimate issues that would prevent a sugar maple from yielding delicious syrup that can be designed into a food forest to circumvent the climate differences between the northwest and northeast?

Thanks to anyone who has thoughts on or experience with trying to produce maple syrup in the PNW.
 
Posts: 24
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You might want to look into tapping the native Big Leaf maple for syrup. Here is one resource:
http://www.blmaple.net/
 
Kyle Williams
Posts: 53
Location: Olympia, WA
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Someone once told me that Bigleaf maples couldn't be tapped for syrup... once again proving why I love this community and why I shouldn't believe everything I hear. Thanks for that link. I am still curious if Sugar Maples would do well here or not... never hurts to diversify.
 
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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dunno about sugar maples. I tried to order some sugaring equipment a few years back to try out on the bigleafs, but the folks wouldn't sell me stuff out of season and I was busy with other things when they were ready. having cut off a bigleaf limb during a warm day this spring, I can tell you that they produce a large amount of sap.

you might also look into other trees. alders, birches, eucalyptus. there are plenty of trees that grow well here and produce edible sap if the sugar maples don't work out for you.
 
Posts: 98
Location: BC Interior, zone 5a
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birch and red alder were also traditionally tapped for syrup
 
pollinator
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Location: zone 7
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I've had big leaf maple syrup it's pretty bland compared to some good sugar maple syrup. Not as sweet as store syrup, I added local honey to mine.

I also looked into growing sugar maples here in California and found out they need real cold winters, like below zero weather. I have plans to try and plant some at a friends who lives at high elevation. He has winter lows below zero. That is if he still lives there when they are mature.

 
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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I have to wonder if the winters are too warm to get the sap flows that we have here in PA. Tapping starts here in Feb. when the day time temps get up to 40, but it is still freezing at night.
kent
 
Posts: 392
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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I think he winters in Western OR and WA are too warm, since sap flows require that regular freeze and thaw... but that's just my idle speculation..
 
pollinator
Posts: 419
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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When we were in MA about 18 years ago I picked up a tiny maple seedling from underneath a big sugar maple, brought it home and planted it in our yard. It is about 10" in diameter now but I have never tried to get sap from it. I live in Camas, WA, just across from Portland. So yes they will grow here, but I don't know if they would produce sap.
 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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if there's a dormant season, sap's gonna flow some time. just a matter of finding the most suitable trees for the climate. sugar maple prolly isn't it in our relatively mild corner of the planet.
 
kent smith
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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On our woodlot the sugar maples and red maples reproduce like weeds.
kent
 
Kyle Williams
Posts: 53
Location: Olympia, WA
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So what causes sap flow? In any tree that can be tapped for it anyway. Does a tree feel the need to get the juices flowing after a freeze to make sure all of its part stay alive? Does the sap flow after a freeze for this reason? Or is it just what they do after a period of dormancy? Does the period of dormancy have to be a certain length of time to even get a sap flow, or does the length of dormancy determine the magnitude of the sap flow?
 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Here are a couple of quick reads on maple syrup production from Michigan St. Univ.
(The second one is various forest crops, maple included).

http://www.for.msu.edu/uploads/files/extension/facts17.pdf
http://www.for.msu.edu/uploads/files/extension/facts3.pdf

 
Posts: 11
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I've wondered about trying some sugar production in the Bay Area and looked into it a little. I did some maple sugaring as part of teaching at a nature center when I lived in PA and New England. Sugar production there is high when the weather is clear, in late winter, leading to cold cold nights and warm(er) sunny days. (but still colder than any day in deep winter where you and I live now) The contrast between night and day was the main driver of sugar production. There was a huge difference not only in sap production but sugar content of sap depending on the weather, and since at best you have to boil off about 40 gallons of water from the sap to get a gallon of syrup, trying to produce it in much less ideal climate could be amazingly expensive (fuel) and time consuming for a product that will end up being inferior in taste anyway. The season was over in a few weeks; by the time it was warm enough for anything to be leafing out the sap was useless (bitter/sour). And then there's global warming, which may be warming nights more than days where you are, making it even less ideal for sugar production...

If the amount of lead time it will take to grow maple trees and find out whether you've wasted your time and money and land for nothing isn't daunting, go for it. Write back in 10 or 20 years and let us know. However......

There are lots! of plants used to make syrups and sugars outside the eastern deciduous forest, including berries, apples, other fruits, roses, pines, birches, and rhubarb, in addition to sugar beets and cane. In each case there's a reason they aren't (with the exception of blue- and strawberries, birches---and rhubarb, sorta) a major product of commerce or home production for syrup or grown outside a limited area. As for maples, the website below suggests Douglass maple for SE Alaska; maybe it will work for your area too. If I were in the PNW I'd go for raspberry and blackberry syrup instead.

See: www.birchboy.com/articles.html#home

It's part of a larger question many are researching and experimenting with. John Jeavons' figures on how much land it takes to feed a person are the basis for thinking about what to grow and how much to expect. Carbohydrates are relatively easy (fruits and vegetables, potatoes, grains, beans, shrooms (and all those rapidly popularizing perennial vegetables...see Eric Toensmeier). Proteins are harder but not much harder (small numbers of permacultured livestock if you're into that sort of thing to supplement the perfectly adequate plant proteins and some source of B12). Various estimates of how much land to simply survive are available, but if you want to add even tiny amounts of sugar, and fats or oils to that basic amount the space requirements go way up way fast, in most climates.


http://deanom.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/how-much-land-do-i-need-to-grow-all-of-my-food/
and I'm sure there was a thread about the subject on this site a while back with lots of figures and ideas.
 
Posts: 45
Location: Bedford, England: zone 8/AHS 2
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Jeff Cope wrote:There are lots! of plants used to make syrups and sugars outside the eastern deciduous forest, including berries, apples, other fruits, roses, pines, birches, and rhubarb, in addition to sugar beets and cane. In each case there's a reason they aren't (with the exception of blue- and strawberries, birches---and rhubarb, sorta) a major product of commerce or home production for syrup or grown outside a limited area. As for maples, the website below suggests Douglass maple for SE Alaska; maybe it will work for your area too. If I were in the PNW I'd go for raspberry and blackberry syrup instead.



One plant you could go for is Boston ivy (also known as Japanese ivy, Grape ivy or Japanese creeper). Prior to the introduction of sugar-cane, the Japanese boiled down the sap of Boston ivy for use as a sweetener in Wagashi, a type of confectionery.
 
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We've got a stand of mature sugar maples on our property up here in central British Columbia, and I've just finished boiling down my first gallon of syrup from them. Someone was kind enough to bring them out here around 50 odd years ago, and it sounds like no one out here had ever gotten around to actually tapping them. You can grow sugar maples out here in the PNW, but for a good sap run, you need nights below freezing, and days above freezing. We had around a 5 week season this year and I got around 160 litres of sap from six trees.

Good luck! Also, black, silver, douglas, and big leaf are all worth tapping and boiling if you can find large enough tree (10" diameter at chest height is the minimum size). Also, make sure you collect the sap at least every other day. It's like milk and will go sour on you if you leave it too long. I found it easier to just toss some plastic carboys full of sap in the freezer until I had enough to be worth boiling down.
 
Posts: 199
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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The original poster was writing in 2012, last poster in 2014.

As I understand things, conventional production of maple syrup requires cycling between freezing and thawing.  In the USA-NE and Quebec (nearby other parts of Canada?), this freeze thaw is only driven by the day/night.  As global warming advances, the ability of the USA-NE to produce conditions necessary for conventional maple syrup production will largely go away, which is expected to have large consequences.

Again, as I understand things, about 10-12 years ago, someone (in Vermont?  At UVermont?) came up with a new method.  A relatively young sugar maple gets "beheaded", and on the top of the trunk is attached a vacuum apparatus.  No tapping required.  And this young tree, can apparently produce as much sap as many much more mature trees.  So writeups conjured up the idea of having a quarter section (or whatever) of trees, and producing billions of gallons of sap.  A question I have, is the character of the sap going to be changed by the warmer conditions?  This work was sort of intended to keep places like Vermont producing maple syrup long after there would no longer be the freeze/thaw cycles to produce flow naturally.

The last poster was in central BC, which means he is south of me and on the other side of at least one mountain chain. I am on the eastern slopes of the Rockies.  He was successfully working with sugar maples 4 years ago in a conventional way.  The thing that is different with places like Dawson Creek, is that we get Foehn winds in the winter (local name is chinook (snow eater)).  We can go from -30C at noon to +10C at midnight (and the winds will be strong).  So by and large, our freeze/thaw cycles are disconnected from the clock, and not predictably connected to the calendar.

But if what the tree needs for character, is similar ranges of maximum/minimum, then things could still work here.  What I think you want to do, is to establish a "sugar bush" (a mixed forest collection of trees, dominated by sugar maple), that is not planted at anywhere near plantation density.  You want to establish a collection of maples (and other trees) to become mature, to provide some of the environment.  And in the spaces between the "mature trees", one plants sacrifical maples to be attached to vacuum systems.  As one approaches spring, a sampling and analysis system is monitoring the sap, and when the specifications are right, the vacuum is turned on to produce sap for collection.

Does this just happen once for "spring", or does it happen with many chinooks?  Does just the tree above ground need to go through the freeze/thaw cycle, or does some fraction of the root system have to go through this as well?  Maybe a person needs a bed of wood chips to provide insulation and help hold moisture, so that the maple trees are not trying to produce sap from frozen water in the ground?  It's possible there is some magic amount of insulation required (which probably changes according to conditions).

In any event, it's entirely possible that you only need one or two "vacuum maples" to produce a harvest to turn into syrup.  I believe once sucked dry (so to speak), you pull the tree and plant a new one.  But maybe coppice or pollard comes into this?

We do get winterkill here.  Native trees are largely aspen, some willow and poplar, some spruce and pine.  Other stuff.  But if you were to just say trembling (or quaking) aspen, you are close.  Chinook blows in, sun comes up at some point, tree begins to think it is spring, sap starts running, chinook goes away, sap freezes and big chunk of the tree dies.  I see trees where the entire thickness of the tree above some point is dead from this sort of thing.  But it also happens that the dead part is more or less on the south side of the tree.  I am thinking that a person wants to grow a row or two of conifers on the south edge of the sugar maple patch, which is tall enough to block out most of the sunlight between say beginning of November and maybe beginning of March.  Hence, after the beginning of March, the sun gets high enough in the sky that is starts to illuminate the tops of the maples (and other trees) in the grouping.  Or maybe you don't want complete blocking of sunlight, but rather modulation.  So you have 2 (or 3) rows of conifers of about the same height requirements, but spaced further apart.  So any given area within the sugar maple area may get 20 minutes of sunlight as the sun sweeps across the sky, before the next conifer blocks the sun for some length of time.

I live on a north facing slope.  On the winter solstice, I think we get a bit more than 4 hours of direct sunshine on the ground.  Looking forward to the spring equinox, we get quite a bit more than 4 hours, but still nowhere near 12 hours.

Parts of central BC, and most of the PNW gets considerably more precipitation than we do here.  I don't have a good feel for how PNW precipitation compares to USA-NE and Quebec, but they too will also get significantly more water than we get.  But, if we get to put wood chips on the ground to keep the frost from going down so far in the winter, then the Back to Eden effect may also allows us to produce crops which normally need a larger water input.

Food for thought.  If this interests you, think OpenSource.  Think Creative Commons.  Think Sneakers (too many secrets).  The road to hell is paved in IP.
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 199
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Why do I think you need mature sugar maples in a proper environment, and vacuum maples?

I will spell it wrong, but Mycorrihzea.

These members of the fungi universe can set up networks of filaments connecting trees of the same species, as well as tree of other species.  Or even non-trees.  There are places where these fungi will move sugar from one kind of tree to another kind of tree, and ship some other nutrient(s) in the other direction.  Of course, they take their cut.  But it isn't like "what the market will bare" that we have for humans to live in in the free world.

I think the scientific article I read about this the first time, involved a Douglas Fir forest in central BC.

I have no idea if such a fungal network participates in any sugar maple forest.  Or if any researchers have looked at this.

If no fungal network has done this in the past, is it possible to design and produce one?  And I don't mean by altering genetics in the lab.  Is there a way to landrace fungi?
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 199
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I've only ever seen once "recipe" for a "sugar bush".  My immediate thought was it needs honey locust and/or black locust too.

But, if our sugar bush is at a much lower density than plantations, there will be room to add other trees in the future.  Those trees could be canopy, or could be sub-canopy.

Hazel nuts have a blight problem.  People are working on it.  I believe one of the leaders is Badgersett in Minnesota.  And they apparently are also working on chestnut.  Working (both cases)?  I believe they have resistant trees in both categories, the push now is to produce trees for machine harvesting.  But, maybe I read things incorrectly?

The thing that always gets my attention, is that they are not in a position to  export to Canada.  Gee, they are only 3500km or so from where I live.  Could I go there and get a few trees and get them across the border (legally) myself?

I think that both hazel nut trees and chestnuts would work in well with a sugar bush.

So you add the black locust and honey locust to fix nitrogen, and the black locust attracts a gazillion bees in the spring (mostly bumblebees?).  Beaked hazel is native across a huge part of BC (and the mountains), but the nuts are only big enough for squirrels to pursue.  I don't know a lot about chestnuts, other than chestnut flour was likely the first flour used to make pizzas in Italy.  Not wheat flour.  And it makes you fart.  Sorry.

Well, if we have hazel nuts growing in the understory (because the canopy is widely spaced), can we get Evan's cherry growing in there as well?  Maybe not.  It seems the reason Evan's cherry succeeds in the Canadian Prairies, is the August drought.  The plant dries out and becomes dormant before it freezes, allowing it to not be damaged by our hard (in the past) winters.  But, as maple supposedly will bring water up to the surface for itself and other plants at the surface, we don't want this happening with Evan's cherry.  Or does some other rule kick in?  But sour cherries and maple syrup does sound good.

Things to ponder.
 
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