blank Maple Tree with tap Tapping Into Spring
The Art & Science of Maple Sugaring
Maple Syrup on a spoon
The Library of Congress highlights "Tapping Into Spring" as its "Featured Resource" on its Science Reference Guide, Selected Seasonal Resources: Maple Sugaring.

imageIt's Maple syrup time! It's been really cold and maple producers are gearing up and will do their best to provide wonderful maple sugar production. Latest conditions will be given for many of the sites below and conditions vary from area to area.

Spring fever warms the air and also brings another kind of March madness. Before sugar maple buds open, the tree needs nutrients found in sap. Below-freezing nights and sunny, warm (40 degrees F) days provide optimal conditions for sap to start moving up the tree, possibly draining into a bucket or through a network of tubes to a sugarhouse, where it is evaporated over roaring fires and transformed into a regional delicacy sought round the world--Maple Sugar.

Begin your maple excursion with the annual Maple Weekend in New York, (March 19-20 & April 2-3, 2016 10 a.m.-4 p.m.) sponsored by the New York State Maple Producers Association (a consortium of 550+ maple producers throughout the state) in an area nearby. Maple sugar producers host special open houses to demonstrate the art of making maple syrup. This site provides nice starting points for learning more about the production and use of maple syrup. Another great site to visit is from the University of Vermont. It offers a comprehensive collection of resources on the entire maple syrup industry and includes history, science, agriculture, and economic materials.

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is the most common maple species in New York. Maples provide the brilliant red autumn leaves, and in spring imagefurther stimulate our senses with maple syrup derived from their sap. This leaves little wonder why the sugar maple is New York's official state tree and appears in the center of the Canadian flag.Canadian Flag

maple leafIf you clicked on the "Maple syrup time" link above, you can listen to Pete Seeger singing the song live here.

What's News...

  • Unusual winter challenging for maple syrup producers. Feb. 2016 article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle on this season's sugar production and the effect of weather.
  • Maple Syrup: Nature's Nutrient-Rich Sweetner. A short article on the benefits of maply sugar. Turn to page 9.
  • Book: The Sugarmaker's Companion: an Integrated Approach to Producing Syrup, from Maple, Birch, and Walnut Trees (9781603583978). Published in 2013, this work is a textbook for maple producers, from backyard, through large operation. It contains chapters covering all aspects of the process and includes science and technology. There is a good bibliography of the primary works on tree-sugar production, as well as a list of web resources. See a description at Amazon.
  • Maple-inspired music: View fiddler Ward Allen playing Maple Sugar, and then listen to the Maple Sugar Polka.
  • UB logoMaple Sugaring Tour for UB Students. The University at Buffalo International Student and Scholar Services schedules trips throughout the year. The maple sugaring adventure is on April 3; 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. The trip is to a local sugarbush, to watch maple syrup being made, followed by pancakes with fresh syrup.
  • Maple Sugar Festival. Saturdays & Sundays, March 19-20 & April 2-3. Genesee Country Village & Museum. Sugaring program 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. / Breakfast 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. "Celebrate this special time at the museum in March with a Pancake Breakfast, self-guided walks to the sugar bush, 19th-century and modern syrup-making demos and tastings. The entire museum will be alive with activities—including hands-on crafts, games, food tastings, dancing, open-hearth cooking in our historic village, a maple cooking contest, a maple sugar history trail and even brewing up some maple beer. Maple-sugaring activities including log hewing, spile carving, tree tapping, sap collection and boiling down the sap to syrup and sugar. Visit the cooper and tinsmith as they make buckets for collecting sap.
  • The Other Syrup: Why Birch is the Hot New Flavor (Adirondack Life Magazine Mar./Apr. 2014). Alternative competition for maple sugar.
  • Recipes! Brand-new ideas in the Recipes section.

Sugar Maple leafimageObtaining the raw material for maple syrup results of physiological processes that turn each tree into an osmotic pump. Steve Vogel ("Nature's Pumps" American Scientist 82, September-October 1994) describes the movement of ions across cell membranes allowing a concentration gradient to be maintained where, "a mere one-molar concentration difference generates over one million pascals, so an osmotic pump can easily work against quite a high resistance."

As the daytime temperature begins to rise, starch accumulated during the previous summer and stored over the winter in the tree's zylem parenchyma is hydrolyzed by special "contact cells." Hydrolyzed starch products include the sugar, sucrose, which can reach concentrations of 3-5%. The osmotic pump is "primed" with the high concentration of sugars dissolved in the maple tree's large plumbing network of phloem. Water drawn into the trees by its root system provides the sugary sap that can travel at the rate of 1m/hr. The maple tree is "tapped" to capture the flow and provide the sap for maple syrup.

The sap obtained from the maple tree is a clear, colorless, sterile liquid providing the water and nutrients for the tree's buds. The North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual "Appendix 2: Chemistry and Quality" provides a chemical analysis of sap: 98+% sucrose, < 2.0% glucose, phenolic compounds, amines, peptides, amino acids, proteins, and organic acids. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup, which weighs about 11 pounds and has a 66.5% sugar content.

imageMaple sugaring (producing syrup from sap) was shown to the first European settlers to the Americas by native Indian tribes and involves a variety of scientific and technical concepts: levers (splitting firewood), heat transfer, viscosity, boiling point, and depression of freezing points are among the concepts of physics involved in transforming the watery sap to a thick, rich, amber syrup. Larry R. Yoder's The Physics of Maple Syrup Making is a good starting point for learning the science behind the process.

For events and activities in the Western New York/Southern Ontario region go directly to:

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Regional Sugarbushes -- Places to See and Taste Maple Sugaring

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sugar molecules related to maple sugarMaple Sugaring Science

Standards and Reference Tools

Science (Chemistry and Production)

Quick Maple Facts

  • 35-45 gallons of sap = 1 gallon of syrup
  • Sugar content of sap = 2%-3%
  • Sugar content of syrup = 66.5%
  • Number of taps per tree = 1-3
  • Number of taps per gallon of syrup = 3-4
  • 20 gallons of syrup = 1 cord wood burned
  • 1 gallon of syrup = 11 pounds
  • 1 gallon of syrup yields = 7-8 lbs of maple sugar

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Sugar Maple leaf artBackground and History of Maple Sugaring

For a list of State Trees and Flowers of the United States, visit the United States National Arboretum page.

Education Materials

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imageRecipes with Maple Syrup

There are so many things to do with maple syrup! Here are a few sites telling you what can be done with them! Though you know that it is good for you, read the official document: Maple Sugar's Nutritional Value (USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 13). Read also the Nutritional Value of Maple Syrup. Brief description of the benefits of eating this wonderful food.


The Maple liquer bottleproducts listed here are not endorsed by the authors. We add them to show a variety of unusual items that you may find interesting. Most of the state associations listed above have links to where to buy. See also the recipe section for additional sources.

  • Lamothe's Sugar House (Burlington, CT). Come see maple sugaring any weekend in February or March (call ahead to verify it's a good day). Available are products of all kinds.

Maple Liqueur

Maple sugar can be turned into adult beverages. Here is a small selection of products.


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Fred Stoss and David J. Bertuca. Comments Always Welcome

Last Modified: 26 February 2016

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Sugar Maple leaf art