Tree and Plant Identification # 7 – Maple Sap

Journal Notes: Maple Sap – Best from a sugar maple but using other maple trees can work too. A sugar maple is a deciduous hardwood tree that normally grows to be 80-115 ft tall. The leaves can be almost 8 inches long and wide with five palmate lobes with smaller basal lobes, the notch tends to be rounded in the interior. They make spectacular fall foliage. Leaf buds are pointy and brownish. New growth twigs are green and dark brown and flowers occur in early spring after the tree is 10-15 years old. The fruit is a double winged samara with one seed in each. The seeds fall from the tree in autumn. The best trees to tap are 40-100 years old and over 65 ft tall. Trees can be tapped in late winter/early spring (Feb-March) and the season lasts approximately 4-8 weeks depending on the weather. Sap flows when daytime temps rise above freezing and nighttime temps are below freezing. The rising temperature creates pressure inside the tree generating the flow of sap.


Tree Width Number of taps
12 – 20 inches 1
21 -27 inches 2
27+ inches 3

The height of the tap hole should be around 3 ft off the ground and the hole should be placed above a large root or below a large limb, on the south side of the tree if possible. The hole should be about 5/16”-7/16” wide and about 2 – 2 ½” deep. A drill works best, drill at a slight upward angle to facilitate the flow of sap. The shavings should be light brown indicating healthy sap wood. Clear away the shavings and insert a spike into the tap hole. Gently tap the spike into the tree. If the sap is flowing it should immediately start to drip. Another method is to cut a “V” shape into the tree with your axe instead of drilling a hole. Hang a bucket to collect the sap and boil like water to disinfect.

Disclaimer:  As far as we know the information provided is accurate. New England Woods LLC DOES NOT recommend any person or animal touch, taste, ingest, harvest, etc any plant material or organic matter found outdoors without receiving proper training from an expert in foraging, botany or biology, as well as consulting a health professional first. New England Woods LLC, its staff and volunteers ARE NOT experts, biologists, botanists or professional foragers. New England Woods LLC and its volunteers and staff, ARE NOT liable for any injury, allergy, or death which may result from information found on this website. This website and blog are intended to distribute general and basic information only. 

One thought on “Tree and Plant Identification # 7 – Maple Sap

  1. Growing up in New England has made me scoff at the idea of using table syrup as a substitute for the real-deal. It ‘aint right if it isn’t real maple.
    From what I have researched, any native maple species can be tapped, but Sugar yields the most. There’s also Black Maple – which is sometimes referred to as a subspecies or its own separately distinct species – and it yields about as much sap.

    Near where I grew up, there were three very old Sugar Maples on what used to be a working dairy farm about 100 years back. They are over 4 ft DBH (one of them is easily 5 ft DBH), and I bet they were tapped.

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