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Leucoderme Acer saccharum

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
AY-ser sa-KAR-um
Description

Northern Sugar Maple is a deciduous tree that is native to Eastern and central North America. Primarily found in the mountains of North Carolina, it prefers to grow in cove forests and other rich forests, especially over mafic and calcareous rocks. It is also commonly found in dry-mesic forests and dry woodlands, less typically extending to high elevation northern hardwood forests where sometimes in acidic situations. It can be sporadically found throughout the Piedmont as it was introduced to the region as an ornamental plant. 

It may reach 50 to 120 feet tall with a dense spreading crown and grows at a slow to medium rate. The leaves have 5 lobes and coarsely toothed edges and turn brilliant shades of red, orange or yellow in the fall. In spring drooping racemes of yellow flowers are followed by winged samaras that are clustered on long reddish stalks in summer. It is the only tree commercially used today for syrup production. The sap is collected in the spring and is concentrated by either boiling it or by reverse osmosis. 35-40 litres of sap make 1 litre of syrup. A single tree can produce 5-60 litres of sap per year. For best sap flow, this tree should be planted in areas where nights are below freezing and and days are higher than 5 degrees Celsius (~41 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Northern Sugar Maple grows best in moist, well-drained, slightly acidic, fertile soil in full sun but will tolerate average well-drained soils in sun to part shade. It is intolerant of compacted soil, high heat, air pollution, and road salt commonly found in urban environments. It is best used as a shade tree in lawns or park type settings.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: No serious insect or disease problems.  Aphids, borers, and scale may be present.  Verticillium wilt, anthracnose, cankers, leaf spot, and tar spot can affect unhealthy trees.  Leaf scorch may occur in drought conditions.  It can have brittle wood. Roots can crack sidewalks and clog drains and septic systems. Sensitive to heat, drought, and soil compaction. 

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • ‘Barrett Cole'
    More columnar, 30 feet tall
  • ‘Bonfire’
    50 feet tall, faster growing, better heat tolerance.
  • ‘Commemoration’
    50 feet tall, faster grower, good fall color.
  • ‘JFS-KW8'
    50 feet tall, reliable fall color
  • ‘Morton’
    30-40 feet, better heat and drought tolerance
‘Barrett Cole', ‘Bonfire’, ‘Commemoration’, ‘JFS-KW8', ‘Morton’
Tags:
#food source summer#sun tolerant#food source nectar#Piedmont Mountains FACU#cpp#edible tree#early summer flowers#flower#sunshine#screening#deciduous#summer fruits#late spring flowers#food source pollen#food source#bird friendly#full sun#food source hard-mast fruit#shelter#shade tree#green flowers#Coastal FACU#full sun flowers#yellow leaves#fall color orange#buffer#pollinators#piedmont#samara#yellow flowers#food source fall#children's garden#fruit#NC native#flowering#lawn tree#fantz#mid-spring flowers#fall color red#tree#fruits#heavy shade#pollinator plant#playground#food source herbage#native#food source hard mast fruit#storm damage#fall color#pollinator garden#small mammals#woody#deciduous tree#small and large mammals#orange leaves#flowers#fire resistant#butterfly friendly#samaras#native tree#spring interest#mountains#audubon#large shade tree#native garden#wildlife plant#windbreak#moist soil#fall color orange-red#full sunlight#fall interest#summer interest#butterflies#spring flowers
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • ‘Barrett Cole'
    More columnar, 30 feet tall
  • ‘Bonfire’
    50 feet tall, faster growing, better heat tolerance.
  • ‘Commemoration’
    50 feet tall, faster grower, good fall color.
  • ‘JFS-KW8'
    50 feet tall, reliable fall color
  • ‘Morton’
    30-40 feet, better heat and drought tolerance
‘Barrett Cole', ‘Bonfire’, ‘Commemoration’, ‘JFS-KW8', ‘Morton’
Tags:
#food source summer#sun tolerant#food source nectar#Piedmont Mountains FACU#cpp#edible tree#early summer flowers#flower#sunshine#screening#deciduous#summer fruits#late spring flowers#food source pollen#food source#bird friendly#full sun#food source hard-mast fruit#shelter#shade tree#green flowers#Coastal FACU#full sun flowers#yellow leaves#fall color orange#buffer#pollinators#piedmont#samara#yellow flowers#food source fall#children's garden#fruit#NC native#flowering#lawn tree#fantz#mid-spring flowers#fall color red#tree#fruits#heavy shade#pollinator plant#playground#food source herbage#native#food source hard mast fruit#storm damage#fall color#pollinator garden#small mammals#woody#deciduous tree#small and large mammals#orange leaves#flowers#fire resistant#butterfly friendly#samaras#native tree#spring interest#mountains#audubon#large shade tree#native garden#wildlife plant#windbreak#moist soil#fall color orange-red#full sunlight#fall interest#summer interest#butterflies#spring flowers
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Acer
    Species:
    saccharum
    Family:
    Sapindaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    These trees can be tapped to make maple syrup. The wood is used for furniture and other items. Native Americans and early European settlers used this tree as a main source of sweetener. Native Americans are also known to have used the sap of this tree for candies, as a beverage, in beer (fresh or fermented), and used to cook meat.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North America
    Distribution:
    Eastern North America
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    The seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals. The cavities are utilized by cavity-nesting birds. Deer and moose browse the stems and leaves. Porcupines consume the bark and can girdle the upper stem. Butterflies and other pollinating insects enjoy the nectar from the flowers.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Pieces Used in Games
    Shade
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Nesting
    Edibility:
    Sap used for maple syrup
    Dimensions:
    Height: 40 ft. 0 in. - 120 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Oval
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Samara
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a paired, papery-winged samara that averages 1 inch in length. Color is green maturing to brown. Available from June to September in North Carolina.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Panicle
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Description:
    Separate male and female flowers are greenish-yellow drooping panicles in April and May. In North Carolina, the flowers are available from April to June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Palmasect
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    3 to 6 inches long and wide with 5 lobes. The basal lobes are relatively small, while the upper lobes are larger and deeply notched. The tip acuminate, base cordate and margins entire. Color is dark green in summer, changing to yellow, orange and red in fall.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Bark Description:
    The bark variable but generally light gray to gray-brown, rough, deeply furrowed, and darker with age
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Scaly
    Stem Bud Terminal:
    Only 1 terminal bud, larger than side buds
    Stem Bud Scales:
    Enclosed in more than 2 scales
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    Stems are slender with lenticels. Stems and buds can be green, brown to reddish-brown. Buds are 1/4"-1/2", cone-shaped, acute, and have 4-8 pairs of lateral scales.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds