This time of year, people may be thinking about tapping maple trees for sap. But how can you tell the difference between Sugar, Norway, Red and Silver Maple.
Actually, all maples will produce sap that can be boiled to make syrup. But sugar maples have the highest sugar content so are preferred. Just remember, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. And if you boil it in your kitchen, you may take some paint off your walls or ceiling.
Sugar maple, Acer saccharum, has a smooth to texture bark
and what I like to refer to as checkerboard buds.
Norway maple, Acer platanoides, has fissured bark,
and larger bulbous buds.
Red maple, Acer rubrum, has a rough bark that may appear to exfoliate,
upright, rounded growth habit
and clusters of red buds.
Silver maple, Acer saccharinum, has rough bark,
a rounded head that may have some cascading branched,
and clusters of light red to green buds.
Winter tree identification can be challenging so my recommendation is to observe the trees year-round and observe flowers, leaves, fall color and buds. And if you plan to tap in February, put a ribbon around the trees you are certain are Sugar Maples.
Attached if a fun youth centered video to help tell the difference: