Fall color primer 7: Sugar maples, Acer saccharum
Fall color primer 07: Sugar maples
Acer saccharum, the sugar maple, is a North American tree whose native range includes a southern strip of Canadian provinces that borders the USA and roughly the northeastern quadrant of the USA. Its sap was used by Native Americans in the colder northern parts of its range as a source of sweetener, a practice that was enthusiastically embraced by European immigrants.
The trees provide some of the earliest and most spectacular fall colors in the hardwood forests of its range. Colors typically range from yellow through orange, or burnt orange, to near fluorescent red-orange, though shades continuing into true red and even purple are known. I personally have never seen sugar maple leaves that are deep red, much less purple. One aspect of the fall coloration that I tried to suggest in this poster is the color variations found not just in individual trees, but in individual leaves. Only the fully yellow sugar maples present a solid color. Even then, when the leaves are examined closely, variations in yellow tones can be seen.
Wikipedia has a ‘color wheel’ of sugar maple leaf colors that you might find interesting.
That image also shows the typical sugar maple leaf shape, which is described in Wikipedia thusly: “The leaves are deciduous, up to 20 cm (7.9 in) long and wide, palmate, with five lobes and borne in opposite pairs. The basal lobes are relatively small, while the upper lobes are larger and deeply notched. In contrast with the angular notching of the silver maple, however, the notches tend to be rounded at their interior.” Basically, think “Canada flag maple leaf”
A large number of sugar maple cultivars are available commercially. They’re tailored for different growing conditions, among other things. One notable type is columnar – very tall and skinny. Some photos of one such, a Temple’s Upright sugar maple, are available in this gallery: https://arctangent.smugmug.com/SeasonsoftheYear-3/4th-Fall/Fall-Trees-by-Kind/Maples-in-Fall-Non-Asian/
Driving through a fall landscape and seeing these glorious trees standing out from all the greenery is a special treat. But the real amazement comes from walking among them, especially in wooded settings, and seeing the leaves glowing from the light pouring through them. From seeing the leaves raining down during a burst of wind, swirling around, lying in a technicolor carpet at your feet. From my description of sugar maples, you might think it's my favorite tree in fall. That distinction belongs to sassafras, however. That tree will feature in a later post.
My BCAM post will come later today.
arctangent2019Octobernatureseasonsfallautumnfall foliagefall colors