Maple trees are symmetrical trees or shrubs with thick foliage that spread out. The flowers of maple trees stand erect, rather than hang down as most tree flowers do. These large trees are mostly known for producing maple syrup. Caretakers shouldn't expect syrup for 30 years, though, as it takes a maple tree that long, or even longer, before it can be tapped for syrup. An average 40-year-old sugar maple tree produces roughly 10 gallons of sap each season.
Maple trees are deciduous, meaning they shed their leaves. They belong to the genus Acer. Besides syrup production, maple trees are also known for their "helicopter" seeds, meaning they spin like blades as they fall to the ground. These trees range in size, depending on their species. While some grow only to 15 to 20 feet high, others can reach heights up to 70 feet or more.
Most maple tree species are native to Asia. Several species are found in northern Africa, Europe and North America. Maple trees mostly grow in the North Temperate Zone. They're found in both urban areas and forests, but are usually more stressed in urban environments because the soils can be disturbed and subject to air pollutants.
Maple trees have several benefits in addition to producing maple syrup. For one, these trees serve as attractive landscape plants. Also, wood from the tree is an ideal source of fuel, which can be made into charcoal. The tree's fine-grained wood is also used in making furniture.
Over 200 maple tree species exist. The sugar maple tree, which grows in most of the northwestern and western U.S., is one of the most common types. Its leaves have five lobes with three main veins that run down the largest of the three lobes. The red maple tree grows faster than other maples and lives for more than a century. The Japanese maple, which is basically used for ornamental purposes, is most known for its brilliant red foliage in spring that remains red through fall.
Daytime temperatures have to be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for night sap to run. Cloudy skies can slow down sap running, as a maple tree seems to draw sap from the ground when there's abundant warm sunlight. When snow covers the ground, keeping it frozen, the sugar season is delayed.