Monday, June 13, 2011

How to Plant and Grow a Southern Sugar Maple

(photo from Tim Ross off wikipedia)

The Southern sugar maple is also known as Acer barbatum, Acer floridanum or Acer saccharum var. floridanum. Other common names include the Florida maple and the Caddo maple. It is from the Aceraceae, or maple, family of plants and is native to the United States. The Southern sugar maple is distributed throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Other than landscapes, it is typically found in the riverbanks and streambeds.

This tree makes a good shade tree and can be used around patios and porches. It grows 20 to 25 feet high. It is a small tree with a spreading growth pattern. It is generally smaller in all areas of growth than the similar sugar maple found in the north. Leaves are deciduous and opposite. Fall colors are yellow. There is pale bark. It has a good rounded crown and it is a frequent nesting tree for small wildlife and birds. The seeds from it also is a food source for the same wildlife and birds.

To grow a Southern sugar maple, you will need to be in the USDA hardiness zones of 7 through 9. To plant one of these southern trees in the right environment, select a section of the landscape that is in partial shade. Partial shade is an area that gets three to six hours of sunlight a day. It will tolerate shade but perform better in partial shade. Soil can be moist or dry but it will need to be good in draining. There is a high heat tolerance and it can stand dry soil but performs better with supplemental watering.

Start with a nursery selected sapling or seed. For a sapling, dig a hole twice the width and depth of the root ball. Put the sapling into the hole and spread out its roots. Cover with the dirt dug for the hole, it will not need special soil. Cover with a good mulch and water.

For seed, you will need to collect from mid-summer samara fruits. These seeds do not have to be extracted from the samara to grow. However, warm-moist stratification followed by a time of cool stratification can help in its germination. Put in ground and cover with nearly neutral pH soil. Water it well. Cover with much after it has grown into a sapling.

These trees have a bit of trivia that is fun to learn. These trees can be tapped in the spring to make syrup, just like the sugar maple Acer saccharum. It will take around 40 gallons of the sap to make a single gallon of syrup. Sugar maple wood made into charcoal is what gives Jack Daniels whiskey its mellow flavor. The many different Latin names for the plant comes from a taxonomic controversy the tree has been involved in for at least 100 years.

For More Information:
Fast Growing Trees
Trees for Good Fall Interest in Zone 8
Selections of Georgia Flowering Trees for the Landscape

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