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all about the glorious maple tree

 
paul wheaton
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I would just like to start a catch all thread to talk about all of the things we currently know about maple trees.

And to start this off, I would like to offer this video I just uploaded featuring skeeter making a few comments about maple.



BTW:  When you like a youtube video, please encourage the author by: clicking on the fifth star (ratings), the little heart (favorites) and writing a text comment.

Thanks!
 
Paul Cereghino
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Acer macrophyllum - great leaf producer for mulch, big leaves smother grasses well - easy to grow from seed, creates a dry zone around it by sucking up lots of water, stump sprouts so good for coppice, young stems are pithy so good for straws, older wood burns nice.

Acer circinatum - slow growing from seed, competes poorly with grasses, fussy about where it grows.
 
paul wheaton
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Sugar maple:  for syrup!

I remember St. Lawrence nurseries sold "sweet sap silver maple" as a replacement for syrup.  The tree can be tapped in nine years instead of the traditional 30.  And the sap was 2.5 times more concentrated - so less time spent evaporating.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Japanese maple does OK in a mediterranean climate.

Today I saw a maple (I think) trained in sort of a creeping form: a crotch about a foot off the ground, those two branches arcing down to about half that height, and all growth lateral from there. Odd, but pretty, and it didn't look unnatural.
 
tel jetson
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I'm told folks on Vancouver Island have been using A. macrophyllum sap to make syrup for the last fifteen years or so.  clearly hasn't been done on a large scale yet as I've yet to see big leaf syrup for sale any place, but I'm told it compares well to sugar maple.

large big leaf maples are great for imparting a very nice greenish hue to afternoon sunlight filtering through them.  good for tree houses, too.

I've got a decades long project started growing a covered walkway out of vine maples (A. circinatum).

flowers are good early season pollen source for critters that like that sort of thing.

I like Douglas maples (A. glabrum var. douglasii), though I don't know much about them.  rare in my area, so it's a treat to see them.

maple wood is used for musical instruments.  also bowling pins, butcher blocks and other things that need to be hard.  sometimes gets some weird figures, which woodworkers like: birdseye, etc.  it also gets spalted by fungus, which woodworkers also like.
 
paul wheaton
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rose macaskie
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  its worth looking up maples and sap flow to know more about trees because as maple syrup is a crop its sap flow is well studied and illuminating. rose.
 
                          
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We have just gotten done with our tenth season of maple sugaring on our land here in Central Maine.  It was a short but sweet season and we had a lot of fun. 

Here's a youtube video we made about our maple operation:



I think of maple sugaring as a kind of permaculture

We have the two kinds of trees we tap around here, the sugar and the red maple. 

I like the way that the red maples flower in the spring. 

Sugars are the classic sugarmakers tree.  Grey furrowed bark, crowns 50 or 100 feet up in the sky, catching the sun on rocky hillsides. 

What's not to like about maples? 
 
Ken Peavey
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Welcome aboard, Revi.
 
paul wheaton
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Nice video!

Any flavor difference between red maple and sugar maple?

Are you in the video?

I think you should start threads here for some of your other videos.
 
                          
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Thanks, I'll post some of our other videos.  I am the guy who has the sugar shack, with my friend John. 

It's been a fun thing to do for us.  We get wood for our home fires and John's wife makes jams and jellies out of the syrup.  It's a farm that works for our lifestyle. 

Sugaring is a really fun adventure you can have in your own backyard. 

I can't tell the difference between the syrup made from red maples and sugars, but I think if you just had one or the other you could tell the difference. 

There are a number of trees you can use to make maple syrup, including the Norway maple, the box elder and the silver maple. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Un-boiled sap was traditionally very important. I bet some of the ways it's currently used involve boiling it down and then re-diluting it, which probably makes sense for storage, but less so while it's in season.

I bet coffee or tea made from maple water would be excellent.
 
rose macaskie
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    Joel Hollingsworth, I read about maple syrup when i was trying to find out more about sap flow and maple sap as it is when it comes out of the tree only contains  two percent sugar if i remember right and you have to boil it up quick to reduce it because it is like milk very inclined to go off , so i suppoes the quantity of sugar in it has to do with getting it concetrated enough to preserve itself like jam does. Part of the price of maple sugar is in all the reducing you have to do to turn it into syrup all the wood htat gets used.
    I should think there are those that water it down as you say but they would not be able to do so much. Agri rose macaskie.
 
paul wheaton
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Revi,

I wonder if the rocket stove designs would be of any help in your boilers.  Have you looked into that at all?



 
James Koss
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Didn't see the source talking about removal of water through freezing... so:
"The process of making maple syrup is an age-old tradition of the North American Indians, who used it both as a food and as a medicine. They would make incisions into trees with their tomohawks and use birch barks to collect the sap. The sap would be condensed into syrup by evaporating the excess water using one of two methods: plunging hot stones into the sap or the nightly freezing of the sap, following by the morning removal of the frozen water layer. "

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=115

I wonder if there's anybody doing that to any effect.
 
rose macaskie
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Reducing things so the water to lessen their water content  by freezing them and taking off the layer of ice in the morning hum it is interesting. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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chuck in the forum he started the versatile birch,says that he and his freinds dont reduce birch sap they don't much like it concentrated, birch can be used in the same way maple is used it is milked from the trees and the sap can be boiled down for sugar in laura ingals wilder it is boiled down to sugar consitency or syrup,  birch sap  is used to make wine in scotland and i think some scandinavian places. chuck says they tap it to just drink it as it comes from the tree and they use it for coffee and chocolate drinks, they really fill themselves full of it. So not everyone turns it into srup, some use it more like fruit juice,or drinks base. agri rose macaskie.
 
                          
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I have friends who keep the sap to make ice cubes for their drinks in the summer. 

I think you can use the sap as a sweetener in anything,but the reason to boil it down to 66 brix is that it will keep, but it hasn't crystallized into maple sugar. 

I was thinking of using a rocket stove design to finish the syrup off and heat the sugarhouse at the same time.  The evaporator isn't designed to heat the place, just boil off lots of sap.  The person stoking the arch is the only one really warm.  That's why we call it the hot seat. 

Sugaring is really fun.  It's an obsession. 
 
Lisa Paulson
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What a great video Revi.

I want to have liquid sap for making raw smoothie drinks for our family.  So I am planting about 10  -  two inch high big leaf maple seedlings in pots to grown them big enough to plant in our hedgerows in coastal British Columbia.  Just guessing it will be ten years before we get any sap.  Well you have to start somewhere...
 
Robert Marr
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When I was younger my family and I used to make maple syrup. A lot of it was not in the spirit of permaculture in my opinion. I think there are better options than making maple syrup.

1. We trucked the sap to our sugar house(we were renting the land for rights to tap it, it was all gravity fed to barrels at the bottom, about a 5 minute drive from our house, used a trash pump and would load 6 55 gallon drums in the back). PS If I sugar I will build my shack right smack at the bottom of the sap run.

2. The amount of sap and wood that it takes to make syrup is absurd. Does burning this much wood really make sense for what we end up getting out of it, we are effectively removing carbon that could be sequestered for an output of sugar. Albeit said sugar probably has a lot of trace minerals.


I think the better alternative is to not make maple syrup and instead keep bees.
 
Claire Skerry
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So I've recently moved down to Texas and found that they have bigtooth maples that are natives here. Rather happy about that, because I thought when I moved I'd be leaving behind maples for good. Now I know you need a good cold night below 32F [I think...] and then a day above 40F to get the good sap flow, but I was thinking if I get a place and it has that I can give it a go. One of the things I'm looking into is a solar oven of sorts to evaporate it down passively, since it sounds like I'll have more than enough solar energy. As Robert said it's a bit much to burn all that wood just for a stack of pancakes covered in sticky goodness. Though I could probably have good bbq on the side to make it more productive and then use the ash in the garden.

Mainly I wanted to ask if anyone has had any luck in bleeding a maple down southish? I'd rather not stab a tree if there isn't a chance at all for it to be worthwhile. Though maybe if it's down in a cool glen that might work? Just a thought.
 
Dale Hodgins
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tel jetson wrote:I'm told folks on Vancouver Island have been using A. macrophyllum sap to make syrup for the last fifteen years or so.  clearly hasn't been done on a large scale yet as I've yet to see big leaf syrup for sale any place, but I'm told it compares well to sugar maple.

large big leaf maples are great for imparting a very nice greenish hue to afternoon sunlight filtering through them.  good for tree houses, too.

I've got a decades long project started growing a covered walkway out of vine maples (A. circinatum).

flowers are good early season pollen source for critters that like that sort of thing.

I like Douglas maples (A. glabrum var. douglasii), though I don't know much about them.  rare in my area, so it's a treat to see them.

maple wood is used for musical instruments.  also bowling pins, butcher blocks and other things that need to be hard.  sometimes gets some weird figures, which woodworkers like: birdseye, etc.  it also gets spalted by fungus, which woodworkers also like.


From Wikipedia --- There are approximately 128 species, most of which are native to Asia, with a number also appearing in Europe, northern Africa, and North America. Only one species, the poorly studied Acer laurinum, is native to the Southern Hemisphere. Fifty-four species of maples meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature criteria for being under threat of extinction in their native habitat.

Gary Backlund is a guy on Vancouver island who has written a book about sugaring the broad leaf maple. When I first moved here 19 years ago, Gary invited us to his annual party where we met lots of people. His wife and my ex are now best friends. Gary has a wealth of knowledge and has also written a few kayaking books.

The Douglas maple is named for Sir James Douglas, probably British Columbia's most important historical figure. He started out with the Hudsons Bay Company and became the Govenor of the New colony. Under his leadership, peaceful trade arrangements were made with the native population and we didn't see the sort of genocide that occurred elsewhere. Douglas was of mixed race, being the son of a Scotsman and a free "coloured woman" from the west indies. The British were much further ahead regarding these matters in the 1850s.

Another snippet from Wikipedia --- The Algonquians recognized maple sap as a source of energy and nutrition. At the beginning of the spring thaw, they used stone tools to make V-shaped incisions in tree trunks; they then inserted reeds or concave pieces of bark to run the sap into buckets, which were often made from birch bark. The maple sap was concentrated either by dropping hot cooking stones into the buckets or by leaving them exposed to the cold temperatures overnight and disposing of the layer of ice that formed on top. Production of maple syrup is one of only a few agricultural processes in North America that is not a European colonial import.
 
tel jetson
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Dale Hodgins wrote:
Gary Backlund is a guy on Vancouver island who has written a book about sugaring the broad leaf maple. When I first moved here 19 years ago, Gary invited us to his annual party where we met lots of people. His wife and my ex are now best friends. Gary has a wealth of knowledge and has also written a few kayaking books.


what's the book?

Dale Hodgins wrote:
Another snippet from Wikipedia --- The Algonquians recognized maple sap as a source of energy and nutrition. At the beginning of the spring thaw, they used stone tools to make V-shaped incisions in tree trunks; they then inserted reeds or concave pieces of bark to run the sap into buckets, which were often made from birch bark. The maple sap was concentrated either by dropping hot cooking stones into the buckets or by leaving them exposed to the cold temperatures overnight and disposing of the layer of ice that formed on top. Production of maple syrup is one of only a few agricultural processes in North America that is not a European colonial import.


similar to making moonshine. that would substantially reduce the amount of energy used to sugar.
 
Cj Sloane
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Claire Skerry wrote:
Mainly I wanted to ask if anyone has had any luck in bleeding a maple down southish? I'd rather not stab a tree if there isn't a chance at all for it to be worthwhile. Though maybe if it's down in a cool glen that might work? Just a thought.


I really doubt that it'll work in Texas. You might get a string of cold nights & warm days but another issue is how sweet are those bigtooth maples? How many do you have? Sugar maples are the sweetest and it still takes 30-50 gallon of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Do you have lots of brush for fuel? If it gets too warm the sap will turn quickly.

There are easier options for sweets down south. Sorghum maybe? Beets? Honeylocust?

Don't feel bad about drilling a tap though. It doesn't harm the tree at all.
 
John Polk
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John Polk
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And, here's a 5 minute video of Gary & his operation:
http://vimeo.com/37825608

 
Dale Hodgins
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John Polk wrote:And, here's a 5 minute video of Gary & his operation:
http://vimeo.com/37825608



That's the Gary I spoke of. He's a great guy. The lumber is a much larger part of his operation than the syrup. He manages about 70 acres of forest. When he first started, Broad Leaf Maple and Red Alder were considered trash trees and were usually left to rot. He mills these woods and air dries. Much of it is turned into t&g flooring and special pieces are reserved for mantles or other custom work. Burls are marketed to wood turners. By cutting out poor sugar producers, the average production of his stand is constantly improving.

Most of the large forest areas around here are managed for production of conifers at the expense of broad leaf trees. This creates a fir desert similar to the pine deserts that sepp holzer rails against. Gary's place has a really nice mix of tree species without the highly flammable conifers near buildings. The place is crawling with wildlife. In the 30 plus years that he has managed the property, the total volume of the stand has increased while at the same time improving in quality, since Gary always seeks to cut out malformed trees to make room for better specimens. He makes far more money per acre than clear cut operations do and his land always looks great. And he makes money every year instead of every 50 or 75 years. All of his buildings are built from lumber grown on his land with many fixtures scrounged from demolitions and other second hand sources.

His daughter and son in law built a house on the property. My daughter was 5 years old when she first met Gary's daughter Catherine. She thought the kid was weird since she had so many rustic interests that were foreign to my city raised kid who had never driven a nail. Ten years later Melissa would tell me how amazing Catherine was ---” She raises animals, cuts lumber, builds stuff, grows stuff , co authored a kayaking book with her dad ...” Suddenly Catherine was very cool. All of these things were learned while living in the best example of a working forest that I've ever seen.

Gary is as much a teacher as a lumber and syrup guy. The development of the maple sugar business on this island is largely his doing and he has inspired many others to manage their forests in a sustainable manner. Did I mention that Gary is a great guy ? Edit: I forgot to mention his wife Tiech. She is involved in all of this stuff as well. She's a good friend of my ex-wife.

 
Brenda Groth
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one kind of maple that we have here that I have found to be super seedy /weedy is the shagbark maple..they make beautiful shade trees and are really pretty, fast growing and strong..but..they send out more seeds than either the red or sugar maples so do be careful of them if they are near an area where you don't want baby maples popping up all over..

they have much smaller leaves than the sugar and red also, which are pretty and are easier to use as mulch. Not sure about sugar from them but probably would work well ..probably would be a good tree for planting where you want a quick forest of maples.
 
Nancy Callan
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Does anyone have experience coppicing big leaf maples in the pacific northwest?

We have a group of them, about 8 or 9 trunks growing together, ranging from 12-18" diameter where they separate, and between 75-100 feet tall, growing on the southeast corner of our site. (Most of the site is woodland.) Over the years we have had an aborist maintain them to take out deadwood and weak branches as they are quite near our house. In those years when the crown was thinned out, our ability to grow vegetables on the south side of our house has been much increased. In the interest of keeping the trees, but reducing their shade on the garden beds, I was imagining that we could cut them down to about 20 feet, then as the shoots grew up thickly from that, the shade would be concentrated closer to the trees and not reach all the way to the garden. In my reading/research on coppicing, it is always done low to the ground, but we like the presence that the large mass of trunks creates and we don't want the outward growth the shoots would create low to the ground. Would it work to coppice the trunks at the higher height?

I have also been planning on experimenting with tapping them in the next month or so, and also wonder if this is a bad idea this year if we do attempt the coppice project?
 
Cj Sloane
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When you pollard, you cut them down at about 4'. I've seen them a little higher but I don't think I've seen it at 20'.

It should not effect sugaring, they've begun experiments pollarding sugar maples and attaching vacuum seals over the cut to harvest the sap that way. It's hard to imagine you've got the proper conditions for sugaring though. Deep frost in the ground (several feet deep). Temps above freezing during the day, below freezing at night. Before bud break. It takes 30-50 gallons of Sugar Maple sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. Any other Maple will have a much worse ratio.
 
Mark Thompsons
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Here in the Pacific Northwest the Big Leaf Maple supplies many resources at our homestead. A few ways we utilize them:
-Goat feed (the foliage is high in calcium, a hard to find nutrient in our heavily leached soils)
-Firewood (the btus are decent)
-cover for our poultry from soaring raptors
-shelter from the lighter rains
-shade from the summer sun
-nectar for honeybees
-beautiful tree to look at

We're coppicing the smaller ones to take advantage of the goat feed and small diameter firewood, and leaving the big ones for the good stuff that comes with big trees.
 
Seth Robertson
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Anyone have experience eating the seeds? My daughter loves them raw when they're green still. I looked it up you definitely can eat them. I tried cooking them to get rid of tannins and the bitterness. I wanted to make them like roasted Punkin seats or sunflower. Worked but it kinda stunk up the house. The hardest part I found was getting the sead out. Very time consuming and it made my hand fall asleep. Any easy way to do this?
 
John Stannum
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Would bees feed on the sap?
Reducing it to honey without burning all the wood for syrup.
 
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