Sugar Maple: The King
I was trying to think of some cheesy title for this blog about Sugar Maples. Things like who’s your sugar daddy… Something to do with sweet, I don’t know…
Everybody has favourites of some sort: Sugar Maple just happens to be my favourite tree. Not for the reason most people have a favourite. Most people like features like fast growing, big, or even heavy blooming. I don’t even remember when, but I became a sucker for the fall colours of the Sugar Maple. One could favour because it’s Canada’s national emblem, it’s on the flag. Or because you love maple syrup. You might like it because it has a nice form. It’s not the fastest growing around here, and it has no spring blooms. In fact it’s not the easiest to grow, too wet and it will rot, too dry and it will stunt or even die back from dehydration. It needs some winter protection to from the strong north and west winds. But in my opinion, Sugar Maple is the king of the fall colours. Red Maples are more true red and faster-growing. But Sugar Maples just seem to have something dynamic, almost inflorescent about their fall colour. The big leaves have substance and the fall colour lasts up to 3 weeks. The colours often work their way through the tree like a flame. Red on the outside tips than orange, gold, yellow then green. Sometimes the trees are covered in bright red but that’s not as common. By now I can’t remember what really drew me in about the Sugar Maple. I don’t even remember exactly when it became my favourite. For the last 25 years it’s held that position.
Sugar Maples did not really take a foothold in the prairies until after the year 2000. I purchased my very first tree as an experimental castaway. Jeffries Nursery of Portage la Prairie was working with them and I’d been bugging the researcher to send me one once they had some available. I was blessed to receive one that turn orangey-red the second and third year. They don’t always show their true colours when they’re very young. I also found out the very first year on hardy my tree was. I purchased it in 1997 and I think it was that winter or the one following that the temperature dropped to -42 to -44 Celsius. I was very concerned that my tree wouldn’t make the winter. When spring came in there was only one bud at the tip that didn’t come out. I was elated that this still had potential. In 2005 I moved from the nursery yard, to a place north of Kleefeld. By now the tree was 12 feet tall and I needed a large tree spade to move it. I bit the bullet and brought it with me. This tree is now between 25 and 30 ft tall and is the tree you see in the picture on this blog. My kids own the property now and every fall I drive by on the way home from the nursery and watch the colours change. I pop in every day or two, just to see the beauty of it. So, yeah I’m a tree geek. But, I think I’m actually a beauty geek. And you can tell my wife that!
So as I said, it’s not the perfect easy tree but it certainly has incredible merit. Most of the Sugar Maple trees sold in the industry now are third-generation Manitoba grown. Some are brought in from North Dakota as well. The fall colours may vary from yellow gold to orange to orange-red and occasionally to blood red. All have a beautiful structure and large leaves of substance. The Sugar Maple is known as the tree of the Sugar Bush and for the sugaring off festivals in Quebec and Southern Ontario. Ironically, the prairie hardy selections of our native emblem come from the states. The closest Sugar Maples I found growing in Minnesota are in a place called Maple Lake. It’s a small resort area approximately 20 minutes southeast of Crookston. So they are native from about 2 and 1/2 hours south of us. My tree may also have been from a small native stand at Thunder Bay. So if you’re up for a little challenge I would tip my hat to the Sugar Maple.