A long lived deciduous tree which can grow to 25m or more, this is the source of delicious maple syrup, as well as being an ornamental tree with spectacular autumn colour, especially in colder areas. The sap contains a high proportion of sugar which can be made into a refreshing drink, or be concentrated into a syrup by boiling off the water. Yields of 40 - 100 litres per tree can be obtained, with the best sap production coming from cold-winter areas. NZ has an emerging industry in syrup production, but the collection of sap can easily be done on a home basis too. As if having a 'sugar tree' wasn't enough, this species provides a wealth of other benefits. The seeds are edible cooked - they are boiled then eaten hot, and the inner bark can be dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with grains for baking.
Medicinally, a tea made from the inner bark is a blood tonic, diuretic and expectorant and was used traditionally in the treatment of coughs, diarrhoea etc. Maple syrup is used in cough syrups and is also said to be a liver tonic and kidney cleanser. Furthermore, the leaves of the tree are said to help preserve apples and rootcrops etc. when packed around them. The wood - if you can forego harvesting your syrup! - is considered by many to be the most valuable hardwood tree in North America, and is used in a wide range of applications including furniture, flooring, turnery, musical instruments and ship building. It is also a very good fuel, giving off a lot of heat and forming very hot embers. The ashes of the wood are rich in alkali and yield large quantities of potash.
Sugar Maples are extremely cold hardy, being native to cooler climates of North America. They are mostly unfussy as to soil type and will tolerate a lot of shade. They have the capacity to engage in 'hydraulic lift', drawing water from lower soil layers and exuding that water into upper, drier soil layers. This not only benefits the tree itself, but also many other plants growing around it, in terms of both water and nutrient availability. These trees are therefore deserving of trials in droughty areas, even though they prefer moister soils. I'd love your feedback on this!
PB8 Approx height 90 - 120 cm Certified Organic Plant