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Wild Wednesday: Sugar Maple

March is the month we tap for maple sap, so what better feature to kick off Wild Wednesdays than the Sugar Maple! The tree itself is large, towering as high as 100 feet with hard wood and distinct five-lobed leaves. Identifying a sugar maple in the warmer months is easy with its characteristic leaves (think of Canada’s flag), but winter ID can be tricky.  Maples are one of only a few trees found in Michigan with opposite branches, but when the branches are 50 feet above, sometimes they’re hard to see.  I like to look for its grey, furrowed bark that often curls up on the side of each scale. While common in our area, the sugar maple range is small, covering the northeast corner of the United States and dipping into the central/southern tips of Ontario and Quebec. If you’re in maple territory, you tend to know it because maple syrup is an impressive industry. In Michigan alone, about 90,000 gallons are produced each year (michigangrown.org). The actual sap tapping season varies with the weather since kickoff is when we have temperatures warm enough to thaw during the day and freeze again at night. The tree’s unique porous pulp structure coupled with changing pressures caused by freeze thaw cycles are to thank for this splendidly sweet spring treat! If you’re interested in learning more about maple trees and maple, come attend any of our Maple Sugaring programs – learn more at www.metroparks.com/maple 

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