March 2, 2010

The Maples Know it's March

On the route I take out to the main road to go grocery shopping, I passed by a wonderful sight yesterday.  The sap is running.  The maples know it's March.  They've sprouted new buds and buckets.


For some reason I came back from the supermarket with too much pancake mix and extra waffle batter.

Here's what all the sugar is for... sap is being slowly and inexorably drawn up the massive trunks into the canopy to provide energy for the glorious show that's about to begin.  The tight red buds know it's March.  They're ready for their sugar drink.  It's wonderful to look up from the cold icky winter scene out the window, and see the flush of red in the sky at this time of year.

Bright red maple buds against the sky outside our kitchen window, March 1.  
These are red maples getting ready to burst out, not the sugar maples that are tapped for sap.  

Maples need freezing nights and warm days for the sap to run.  When the temps change from nighttime freezing to mid 30s or 40s in the daytime, which is what we have in Connecticut in March, the carbon dioxide and water that froze overnight in the growing part of the tree trunk thaws.  When it does, pressure differences in the tree's cells develop as the water and CO2 expand.  The pressure difference makes the sap start to move.
 I love the fact that our neighbors use the old galvanized buckets with pitched roofs to keep the rain out.  
Not the blue plastic tubing and bright plastic pails that commercial sugar houses use.  
I'm sure the plastic is more efficient and probably more hygienic, but this just looks right.

It's such a marvel, all that sweet golden activity going on silently inside each growing cell of these big old brown scrabbly trunks.  For eons and eons the maples have known what to do when the nights are freezing but the days are not, and they get right to it.

 Sap buckets laughing their heads off on a warm March day. 


  1. It's just amazing how much we've learned to harvest from nature. I couldn't imagine a pancake without that maple syrup!

  2. Dave, I can just taste the maple syrup looking at the buckets!

  3. This is what I love about March - all the stuff going on behind the scenes. Love these laughing buckets! :)

  4. That is amazing - I have never even thought about where Maple Syrup came from - this is not a sight I have ever seen in the UK!

  5. I noticed sap buckets yesterday also. They're a sure sign of spring.

  6. Finally I know about the sap rising! Ah, maple syrup... it's wonderful. I envy you having so many Sugar Maples.

  7. Garden Ms. S, I know what you mean about activity behind the scenes, everything in March is so busy getting ready!

    Karen, sap season is very American, in fact a very iconic New England sight. The Indians taught us. Think of us here next time you have waffles.

    Joene, it's like maples sprout the buckets themselves, isn't it! No one ever sees them being installed, they just show up in late winter.

  8. Sweet bay, the sugar maples are what make us New England, that's for sure. They're declining throughout the north, though, and scientists don't know why, although they suspect global warming.

  9. Yay! Maple syrup time, spring is a comin. We always had a class trip to the sugar bush when I was in school. The best part was poring the hot maple syrup in the snow to make a candy.

  10. Deborah: hot maple syrup on snow!! That takes me back so many years -- and you too, it appears. Nothing better.

  11. Maple Madness is the sweetest season of the year :)

  12. WiseAcre: is it ever! And there's nothing like the real thing, not the colored corn syrup sold commercially.

  13. Haha, they do look like they're laughing! :D The only time I've ever seen this in person was when I visited my brother in Quebec...we went to a farm where they were tapping trees. It may be a New England thing, but everyone here thinks that I did this type of thing in my part of Canada LOL. Ah, stereotypes...


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