The Sugar Maple - Autumn's Best Character

Everyone should stand under a sugar maple in early November on a sunny day.

There is a tree that wears a garland of lights every October and November. It’s not a Christmas tree.  This tree needs no manmade string of lights to make it glow.  Its’ leaves boast a yellow and golden and orange and red illumination that, on sunny days, becomes a thousand little lights that can’t be duplicated by any of our best efforts.  This tree is the sugar maple, Acer saccharum; not a particularly common tree in Georgia, but if you are fortunate enough to have one thriving in your yard, you are blessed with a tree that offers a beautiful form, “unsurpassed fall color” (Dirr) and which will ultimately be a dominant species in an undisturbed forest site, or a climax species.  

Almost all of the good, local nurseries carry some sugar maple cultivar. The thing to remember if would like to plant a sugar maple in your yard is that it won’t thrive in areas heavy with air pollution.  And plant it in a well draining site with adequate moisture.    

There is another maple, Acer barbatum, that is sometimes called southern sugar maple, but you should not confuse it with Acer saccharum.  Acer barbatum is a smaller, understory tree getting only about 25 feet high.   The leaf is similar to Acer saccharum but turns its fall color two weeks later than true sugar maple. 

Sugar maples are the trees of my childhood memories when every maple tree with a low enough branch was an invitation to climb. And sugar maples are the trees of the memories of my kid’s elementary school years.  I remember waiting for them in front of their school; waiting for their 2:45 bell to ring, and being encompassed by the incredible, amplified light of those maple trees in fall.  The picture accompanying this blog is of that very scene. 

There are other trees I love dearly for their beauty or grandeur: the mighty oak, the expressive beech, the delicate Japanese maple.  I also love silver maple, though it is too weak a tree to love too dearly.  But, when autumn comes around there is only one tree whose beauty is incomparable – the sugar maple.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bob Pepalis November 13, 2012 at 05:44 PM
A word about bloggers: They are independent residents who offer their views, opinions and information about the community. Alpharetta-Milton Patch is more than a blog. It does include bloggers in the Local Voices section, and some of those blog posts are chosen to be featured more prominently on this site by me, the editor.
PhatNate November 13, 2012 at 08:03 PM
@Bob. I do think upwards of 15 blog posts about trees over the last 4 months ought to be more enough tree stories for a while. Can't you find someone to write about the shrubbery once in a while? The shrubs feel slighted...
Julie Hollingsworth Hogg November 13, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Hey PhatNate- ditto what Bob said above. Bob is the editor of the Alpharetta/Milton Patch, not me, and as he said, I'm just a local resident who enjoys blogging. I happen to blog about trees because I am a horticulturist and also because I founded a non-profit that created several arboretums in this area: thus my natural interest in trees. I think it's a fairly non-political subject.
Paula M November 14, 2012 at 01:11 PM
You sound like a grumpy old man, PhatNate. How can you possibly call gardening & tree blogs worthless? Stop and smell the roses! Julie, I don't comment much, but I read and enjoy every gardening article. I wish you would write more on all things gardening. Landscaping, architecture, community gardens...how it all works together is fascinating stuff.
Julie Hollingsworth Hogg November 14, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Thanks and I'll take your suggestion Paula.


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