Renowned for its autumn color, sugar maples are perhaps the most magnificent shade trees in northeastern Ohio. Sugar maple interbreeds with black maple which shares much of its native range. Acer saccharum is the most common tree in Holden’s natural areas, and some of these marvelous trees have lived 200 years and reached 120 feet in height.
At the Arboretum’s Display Garden east of the Lily Pool is a specimen which is a sugar maple sold under the trade name of Green Mountain®. Planted in 1981, measuring 48’ x 52’ in 2021, this tree consistently has excellent orange foliage in October. In 2020 it flowered and is bearing winged fruit, as it has about every other year since 2000. The dangling chartreuse flowers have no petals but possess a subtle beauty for a week or so in April or early May.
At Cleveland Botanical Garden a mature sugar maple is adjacent to the Hershey Children’s Garden entrance. In February 2021 squirrels chewed the bark on its branches, and in the Woodland Garden, squirrels debarked two sugar maples, which did not survive. Sugar maples have high wildlife value, their seeds being eaten by songbirds, upland ground birds, small mammals, and its buds and foliage browsed by deer.
The fall color of sugar maples can vary from year to year depending on temperature, sunshine and rainfall patterns. Planting is best in spring or fall and pruning is best accomplished summer to fall. The dense shade of a mature tree combined with a shallow to moderately deep root system precludes much else being grown beneath its canopy, except for native spring ephemerals such as Virginia bluebells and other such beauties.
Ethan Johnson, Plant Records Curator