“The scarlet of maples can shake me like a cry of bugles going by.”
I have loved maple trees since I was a little girl living on a street named Maple Lane. I remember playing in our schoolyard and watching the double-winged fruit of old maples spiral slowly to the ground. We children called them “helicopters.”
One of the first things I did when I came to our farm in 1982 was plant two maple trees near the house. A Red Maple sapling brought from a friend’s family home in New York State now stands nearly 50 feet high. Soon it will be ablaze with deep red leaves. In early spring, its small bright red flowers signal the beginning of the “honey flow” when major sources of floral nectar become available for bees.
Red Maples’ rapid growth rate and pyramidal shape make them excellent shade trees. They can thrive in a variety of habitats, but their preference for moist soil prompted the alternate name, Swamp Maple. Large Red Maples are used for lower grade furniture and veneer. The Audubon Society’s field guide states that “Pioneers made ink and cinnamon-brown and black dyes” from an extract of the Red Maple’s bark. Also, the tree has “the greatest north-south distribution of all tree species along the East Coast.”
Sugar Maples are not indigenous to S.C. but they are used extensively as an ornamental street tree and in lawns of homes and public parks. Our yard is never more beautiful than when the Sugar Maple presents its glorious fall foliage display of brilliant yellow-orange tinged with red. Sugar Maples, like Red Maples, are resistant to disease and insect pests; however, they are sensitive to pollution and drought.
The wood of Sugar Maples is so heavy and hard that the trees are often called Rock Maples. Sugar Maple is a leading wood for furniture and cabinetry. Some trees develop special grain patterns, such as dots resembling birds’ eyes (birdseye maple), that are in great demand. Other uses are flooring, veneer, boxes and crates. The maple syrup industry has been important to New England’s economy and culture since colonial times.
— Joanna Angle is a 30-year resident of Chester County and a Master Tree Farmer. She has previously directed the Olde English District Tourism Commission, produced and hosted “Palmetto Places” for SCETV and helped establish the Chester campus of York Technical College.