June 2002
Bonfire Sugar Maple
Before the ax cometh.


Bonfire Sugar Maple
Tree Calendar
Julie's Trees

Facts at a Glance
Acer saccharum -

Planted 1997
Planting height: 4'
Planting trunk: 0.7"

This tree was
cut down.

Mature Height: 50 to 70'
Spread: 40'
Growth rate: Fast
Form: Rounded, broad
Flowers: Spring
Fall color: Orange, red
Hardiness zone: 4 - 8
Culture: Sun/part shade

Best feature:
Grows fast for a sugar maple

Worst problem:
None known

Do over? Yes

Bonfire Sugar Maple
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A Tree Grower's Diary
Bonfire Sugar Maple


Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver


Spring 1999



Spring 1999


June 2002

Key identifying features.. Opposite leaves emerge burnt red, quickly change to green, then turn orange or red in fall.

Common name.. Bonfire Sugar Maple

Scientific name.. Acer saccharum - 'Bonfire'

Mature height.. 50 to 70 feet

Mature spread.. 40 feet

Form.. Rounded, broad

Fruit.. Samaras fly off in fall.

Flowers.. Spring.

Foliage.. Deciduous; emerge burgundy in spring, quickly changing to green through summer, orange to red in fall. Leaves are opposite, simple.

Growth rate.. Fast, especially for a sugar maple.

Hardiness zones.. 4 through 8

Culture.. Grows best and fastest in full sun, but tolerates a bit of shade. Prefers a cooler site with rich, moist soil.

Best time to prune.. When the sap isn't running, late summer to early fall.

Julie's Comments.. I was paying special attention to a red maple sapling growing behind our shed, trying to train a strong central leader when one day, I went out to check on the little guy and it was gone! To make up for cutting down my baby, my husband bought the little Bonfire Sugar Maple from a nursery and it stayed in its 2-gallon container for a full year before I decided to plant it on the back border. The tree ended up being a sort of pruning experiment after the local nursery owner advised I cut off the top. Once I did that, it developed three separate leaders shooting out in three directions like a peace sign, all competing to be the central trunk, but none anywhere near growing straight up. So, I picked the one that seemed easiest to train, and I cut the other two, one year at a time.This worked, by the way, and from that point on, the dominant branch shot straight up. The pruning experiment turned out to be a valuable lesson in what happens when a certain growth direction is desired, and well planned for. Eventually, it became obvious that I had planted this tree too close to the October Glory Red Maple, and since I preferred the red maple to the sugar maple for many reasons, I decided to remove the sugar maple. We considered relocating it elsewhere in the yard, but the space is all taken up now and there was nowhere to put it. Besides, by the time I figured out it needed to go, it was 15 feet tall; cutting out the root ball seemed like a job far beyond my capabilities and budget. Removing the tree was the right thing to do, but I truly miss my little friend.

Planting date.. Planted in a container in 1997 as a 4' sapling, transplanted in 1998 and the pruning experiment began. It grew to 20' tall before it was cut down in 2003. (It was a sad day, and this is why I give serious thought now to where I plant things. Overplanting means something will have to go eventually.)


Of special note.. The stump you see in the photograph was only ever covered with mulch, no other steps were taken to help it decompose. By May 2006, it is barely visible, almost completely recycled into the earth. So, it took three years for this tiny stump to disappear. That's a pretty long time!

DO OVER?.. Yes.


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