Sugar Maples

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Mikey, Sep 16, 2006.

  1. Mikey

    Mikey Member

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    Owen Sound
    I have a 50 acre porperty in the Owen Sound area that previously was a grazing pasture. There is ~60 mature maple trees (sugar and black) in the centre of the acerage. Unfortunately, the previous owner allowed the cattle to pasture amongst the trees, and as such, all of the undergrowth and seedling have been completely trampled. I am intersted in planting sugar maples and extending the size of the treed area by ~ 1acre per year. I am interested in finding out how to start the sugar maples from keys - i.e. When to collect, where to collect from (existing trees vs local variety), how to plant, bet way to ensure success.
    Any help or comments would be appreciated.
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    If it's full of maples (Acer spp.) then it truly is an "acerage". Maybe with the cows out of there you don't have to plant any, the existing trees reproducing themselves naturally. This would certainly be better than the bother and expense of starting and planting more yourself. If a native stand (don't know where Owen Sound is) it would also be preferable to have the local ecotypes coming up rather than introducing different ones from elsewhere in the range.

    Otherwise, gather "keys" when up to size but not yet hard and brown, clip wings, sow in pots of lightweight potting type compost and place in coldframe or other protected, cool but not frigid area where rodents and birds can be excluded. You want the containers to experience chilling but not freeze up like bricks. Keep moist and weeded, watch for germination next year.

    Separate and pot on individually before becoming too crowded. Keep fertilized and watered, plant out when seem big enough to make it.
  3. Laurie

    Laurie Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Seattle, WA
    Southern Ontario is a large geographic area that varies in environmental conditions. If possible, give preference to plant materials produced from seed collected closest to your planting site. This will ensure that the plants you are using will be best adapted to local environmental conditions, which echoes Ron's advice. Note that A. sacch. ssp. saccharum and A. sacch. ssp nigrum are treated the same and actually hybridize in ranges, where they overlap, which is no problem. Notice that these sources describe variation in fruiting in various years, so perhaps you could learn how to store some of the seed from bumper crops. At least three methods of seed collection are listed: hand-picking the seeds from late-September to December, depending on where you are, when the seeds are green or have brown tips; raking up the seeds; or placing a tarp down and shaking the branches to collect the seeds that fall. Seed that falls naturally from the tree is almost always mature and is ready for collection. I agree that this project would be quite a bit more fun, and certainly much cheaper, if you simply assist the regeneration of this stand. If you have the time and energy, you could collect some of the seed and leaf litter under the dense canopy and remove those to the areas of interest. With more energy, in spring or fall you could thin and transplant the seedlings or saplings that are doing quite well.

    Otherwise, a bit more information from the forest service on germination: To germinate, sugar maple seeds require moist stratification at temperatures slightly above freezing for 35 to 90 days. Each sugar maple seed seems to have its own stratification-period threshold, short of which the epigeal germination process ceases. Both moisture content and temperature affect how long seeds can be stored. Under proper conditions seeds have been stored for at least 5 years without loss of viability. In natural stands, few if any seeds remain viable on the forest floor beyond the first year.
    "Sugar maple seed has an extremely high germination capacity, with averages of 95 percent or more. The optimum temperature for germination is about 1 C (34F), the lowest of any known forest species. Germination drops rapidly as temperatures increase, and little if any germination occurs above 10 C (50 F). ... Under natural conditions the cotyledon leaves are out and growing before the snow is gone in the northern regions. This unique characteristic of germination at low temperatures probably accounts for the abundance of sugar maple regeneration under most stand conditions in the north. Another major characteristic of the germinating sugar maple seed is its vigorous development of a strong radicle that has the strength and length to penetrate heavy leaf litter and reach mineral soil during the moist period.

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