West Virginia State Tree
Sugar Maple (common name)
Acer saccharum (scientific name)
Sugar maple is among the best-known trees in the eastern United States because of its handsome appearance and distinctive leaf shape. Chosen as the state tree for four U.S. states, this maple is perhaps best recognized as the leaf on the flag of Canada. Although widely associated with Canada, sugar maple does not naturally grow far north or west in Canada. It grows from southeast Canada through New England and the Midwestern United States, south to Tennessee and Virginia. Often planted as an ornamental or shade tree, it is prized for its fall colors. Sugar maple produces some of the most brilliant fall foliage in the Northeast and North Central states, turning many shades of yellow, orange and red during late September and October.
Sugar maple is a deciduous tree that reaches 90 to 120 feet (27-37 m) in height and 30 to 36 inches (76-91 cm) in diameter. Extremely large specimens have reached more than 130 feet (40 m) in height and more than 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter. The bark is light gray to gray-brown and becomes deeply furrowed and rough with age. Twigs are a shiny, reddish-brown. Sugar maple is relatively deep-rooted, with extensive branches and distinctive deciduous leaves. Small, dangling pale yellow flowers appear in early spring before the leaves emerge. Fruit is a paired, papery-winged seed that spins as it falls.
Height: 90-120 ft
Diameter: 30-26 ft
Bark: light gray to gray-brown, deep furrows
Fruit: double seed pod with wings
Leaves: deciduous, with approximately five major lobes
This species is long-lived, and plants can survive for 300 to 400 years.
Sugar maple grows in a wide variety of plant communities throughout eastern North America. It forms part of the main canopy of forests in many northern hardwood and mixed communities of medium moisture.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
Sugar maple is commonly browsed by white-tailed deer, moose, and snowshoe hare. Red squirrels, gray squirrels, and flying squirrels feed on the seeds, buds, twigs, and leaves of sugar maple. Porcupines consume the bark and can, in some instances, destroy the bark of the upper stem.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
This tree is economically important as the primary source of maple syrup. The sap is harvested (tapped) in early spring, and boiled down to form pure maple syrup. The maple syrup industry is important throughout much of eastern North America and accounts for more than 100 million dollars in trade per year. Maple sugar and syrup were used as trade items by many Native American peoples. Sugar maple is an attractive shade tree and is widely planted as an ornamental. It is sometimes used as a barrier to wind, storms, and erosion.
Sugar maple is an important timber tree valued for its hard, heavy, and strong wood, commonly used to make furniture, paneling, flooring, and veneer. It is also used for gunstocks, tool handles, plywood dies, cutting blocks, woodenware, novelty products, sporting goods, bowling alleys and pins, and musical instruments.
Sugar maple possesses extremely effective breeding mechanisms, and flowers are readily wind pollinated. Minimum seed-bearing age is 30 to 40 years. Seed production is partly dependent on genetic factors, and some trees produce an abundance of flowers nearly every year.
The tree is a prolific sprouter in the northern part of its range, but at the southern edge of its range, it sprouts less vigorously than associated hardwoods. Stump-sprouting and root-sprouting are moderately common.
Sugar maple most commonly occurs in rich, moderately moist woods, but also grows in drier upland woods. It grows in level areas or in coves and other sheltered locations on adjacent lower slopes. Sugar maple is often associated with stream banks, valleys, canyons, ravines, and wooded natural levees. It is occasionally found on dry, rocky hillsides.
Sugar maple can grow on a wide variety of soils, but typically grows best on deep, moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It grows on loamy and sandy soils. This tree is intolerant of flooded soils and generally grows poorly on dry, shallow soils. In parts of New England, sugar maple commonly grows on soils rich in organics.
Sugar maple is found in 33 states in the Eastern and Midwest United States, as far west as South Dakota. It occurs at elevations up to 2,500 feet (760 m) in New England and New York, up to 1,600 feet (490 m) in the Lake States, and at 3,000 to 5,500 feet (910-1,680 m) in the Appalachian Mountains.
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U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press