November 2004
Sugar Maple
I was sure this tree was dead soon after I planted it. I was wrong.


Sugar Maple
Growth Chart
Detailed Facts
Julie's Trees

Facts at a Glance
Acer saccharum

Planted March 1999
Planting height: 14'
Planting trunk: 2"

2006 Update
7-yr height: 32'
7-yr trunk: 21"

Mature Height: 40 to 50'
Spread: 75 to 100'
Growth rate: Slow
Form: Broad, round
Flowers: Yellow, in spring
Fall color: Orange-yellow
Hardiness zone: 3 - 8
Culture: Sun, light shade

Best feature:
Fall color, not messy

Worst problem:
None known

Do over? Yes

Beauty of Fall in the Eye of the Beholder

Out with Star Wars, in With Pirates!

A Nursery Owner Teaches Me Patience

On Growing, and Growing Taller

UPDATE: Lego People Have Colonized Base Sugar Maple!

Invasion of the Lego Star Wars People!

Sugar Maple Ain't Dead Yet


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A Tree Grower's Diary
Sugar Maple


Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver

U-shaped notches in the 5-lobed leaves

Key identifying features.. 5-lobed leaves with U-shaped notches.

Common name.. Sugar maple

Scientific name.. Acer saccharum

Mature height.. 75 to 100 feet

Mature spread.. 70 to 80 feet

Form.. Spreading to a broad, rounded form at maturity. My tree seems to have a natural narrow habit, at least for now. It may be a narrow sugar maple cultivar. It came with no tags.

Fruit.. Two winged horseshoe shaped samaras take flight in fall, especially in the hands of an 8-year-old fascinated with "helicopter seeds" and causing "seed storms."

Flowers.. Pale, yellow-green, small flowers appear in clusters before the leaves emerge. Not showy. My tree produced flowers for the first time in 2006, seven years after planting here. I thought they were beautiful!

Sugar maple flowers

Foliage.. Deciduous; dark green in summer, paler green on bottom; turns orange, red or yellow (sometimes all three, plus green) in fall. Leaves are opposite, simple, palmate with five lobes and u-shaped notches.

Growth rate.. Textbooks list this tree with a "slow" growth rate, meaning less than 1 foot a year, but mine has grown upwards of 2 feet a year. See the growth chart for pictures.

Hardiness zones.. 3 through 8

Culture.. Grows fastest in full sun, but tolerates partial shade. Prefers fertile, moist, well-drained soil. Does not tolerate salt and isn't crazy about pollution either.

Best time to prune.. Late summer through late fall, when the sap isn't rising, otherwise you may get sap falling on things below from the pruning site, and ants crawling on the tree hunting that sap on warmer winter and spring days.

Of special note.. Sugar maple sap rises sometime from January to April, and may be gathered in buckets for making maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of maple sugar sap to make 1 gallon of syrup!


Julie's Comments.. This tree puts on a breathtaking display in fall, starting out vibrant orange, then transforming to clear yellow in late November. Some days, I simply want to put on a jacket, make a bowl of popcorn and park myself underneath her canopy and watch her all day -- she is so gorgeous. I planted her too close to the house, though, in a desperate attempt to get some shade in my (then) completely open back yard. In this tree's first year in my yard, she barely had any leaves, many of the branches appeared to be damaged or diseased and there was a fungus growing on the trunk. I begged the nursery owner to come to my property not once, but twice, in the hope that he would replace the sick tree with a healthy one. He said over and over that there was nothing wrong. In the end, he was right and the tree just needed time to get used to her new home, because she is absolutely beautiful now and I did nothing but give her plenty of slow soakings with the garden hose and admittedly, a hug and a prayer now and then.

June 1999: The garden hose is pointing to the sugar maple.

Planting date.. March 1999. Burlap ball. 2-inch diameter trunk. Height: 14 feet. When I initially planted the tree, I didn't plant it deep enough. So I went back out a few days later, dug a deeper hole right next to the root ball and eased tree into the deeper one. The second hole was probably TOO deep, but as of yet, I've not noticed any problems related to it being planted too deep. It's amazing any of my trees survive.

DO OVER?.. Yes.


See Julie's Sugar Maple Journal
See the Sugar Maple growth chart
Read the latest Tree Grower's Diary blog entry

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