Last year one of my neighbors invited me to collect sap for maple syrup on his property. Since then I've been looking for Sugar Maples around where I live. So far I haven't found it very easy to identify them in the winter, but while hiking yesterday afternoon with my neighbors in the hollow below our properties I'm sure I found a big one, about 24-30 inches in diameter. It's in the very bottom of the wet weather creekbed down there and the lower part of the trunk is ringed with holes drilled by woodpeckers. It's a really cool tree and there were the classic maple leaves under it so I know I finally found one.
After I got home I decided to do a little web work to learn more about Sugar Maples and what I found was pretty stunning to me. They're a really slow growing tree. A Sugar Maple that big can be 300-400 years old. I had no idea that is the case.
We're right on the edge of the range for those trees, so I have to suspect not many big ones are around here anymore. This one is in a spot that's way back in a steep and narrow hollow where it would never be cut by loggers, and it's just above the flood line of the Lake sitting on public land (Army Corps/Missouri Dept of Conservation), and most all of that land hasn't been touched for about 60 years now.
I've been looking for big Sugar Maple trees like this one, but I had no idea how rare they are. The guy I went with has a farm that's been there for probably 200 years, and those trees on that land have probably never been molested in all that time, and he has a grove of them, so I thought that's what they all looked like.
I'd be lucky to find one that's 6 inches in diameter on our property, it take 30-40 years for them to grow that big.
I'm going to call the corps to see if I can tap it. I doubt it, they're pretty persnickety about doing anything on that land, but I bet I could get at least a couple gallons of sap out of that tree, which would yield about a pint of syrup.
"You want to go where?"