The sugar maple

Seedling nurseries:  growing trees for healthy and productive forests

While commercially planted for its delicious syrup and value as lumber, the sugar maple tree makes a great addition to any yard or park. And one of its most prominent features is amazing fall color. As the seasons change, the leaves turn vibrant shades of yellow, burnt orange and red.

Just the Facts: sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

Growth: Under optimal growing conditions, sugar maple can attain heights in excess of 100 feet. Most mature trees, however, range from 70 to 90 feet in height. Trees grown in the open have trunks that branch near the ground, forming crowns that spread 60 to 80 feet. In contrast, those found in shaded forest conditions normally develop clear, straight boles and narrow crowns. Leaves are opposite, simple and palmately veined, with 5 delicately rounded lobes. The fruit is two-winged horseshoe-shaped samaras about 1 inch long, appearing in clusters, brown when mature in in the fall.

Range: The range of sugar maple in North America extends from Nova Scotia and Quebec at its northern edge, west to Ontario, southeastern Manitoba, and western Minnesota, south to southern Missouri, and east to Tennessee and northern Georgia

Wildlife Uses: Sugar maples are commonly browsed by white-tailed deer, moose and snowshoe hare. Squirrels feed on the seeds, buds, twigs and leaves. Tree Trivia: In 1663, chemist Robert Boyle informed the Europeans about the tree in the new world that produced a sweet substance. John Smith was among the first settlers who remarked about the Native Americans’ sugar processing and the fact that they used the product for barter. They also used the inner bark to make a tea to treat coughs and diarrhea. Other historic uses included making soap from its ashes, using the bark as a dye, drinking the sap as a spring tonic and taking the syrup for liver and kidney problems.

During the 2001 baseball season, Barry Bonds switched from the traditional ash wood baseball bat to one made of maple and hit 73 home runs—a new record!

Seedlings are available from early fall to early spring from the Division of Forestry’s nurseries.  Orders are shipped at your request for planting projects during the dormant period throughout the winter.  To obtain an order form, visit or call the Division of Forestry at 1-800-866-0555.

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