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Incoming BYTES
contains highly variable subject matter including commentary on the mundane, the extraordinary and even controversial issues. At Incoming BYTES
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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sugar-Maple leaves DO turn Red

At Incoming Bytes we always appreciate a great debate.  Win or no-win,  I love to be involved. 
There has been an ongoing question and discussion regarding sugar-maples and their leaves.  Our friend  Julie Helms  at Wooly Acres (Sugar or Red? ) has an unidentified maple tree growing with red leaves. Some readers say it's a sugar-maple, others say it's a red maple. 

I couldn't resist throwing my maple leaves  into this discussion, --because I know I have genuine sugar-maples.

These pictures are leaves from a  confirmed sugar-maple in the middle of the summer. This  tree has sap that is very sweet.  Note the sugar-maple trunks  in the picture.
Sugar-Maple leaves

The following picture is a leaf from the same sugar-maple tree after it turned bright red, fell on the ground, and unfortunately, faded a lot.

Depending on the weather, the same Sugar-Maple leaves turn red
This picture may solve the question about  Julie's tree being a "red maple" or not.
Notice the leaf in this picture is now faded, but the leaves were very bright red before they dropped on the ground.

Sugar-maples DO have the curious characteristic of leaves changing red or not, depending upon the severity of frost, the amount of sugar in their leaves, and perhaps even the micro climate around them.  Even with trees adjacent to one another, one may turn bright red  one year and not the next, and  the other may do the opposite.

Regardless,  it's a sweet discussion, so  grow sugar maples--the  maple syrup from sugar maples is wonderful stuff!

That's my story and I'm sticking to  it.


  1. Thanks for this post Ray. Now your Sugars look strongly 3-lobed instead of 5. What they do have in common with mine is that indent where the leaf and stem come together, whereas the red maple is flat across there. I wonder if, as people have suggested, we have some hybridizing going on which is making this identification so difficult. But you have given me another idea...I am off to look at the trunk!

  2. This is very interesting. I have now been motivated to check out the biological differences between he two although to me the Sugar maple is a red maple according to the pics. hehehe.... but I have to find out more.

  3. An autumn post that is quintessentially Canadian, as well as interesting! I find your blog so interesting, in fact, that I’ve given you an award: Lala musings: Lala - The Versatile Blogger

  4. Raymond, you have me baffled! Sugar maples are supposed to have 5 lobes, aren't they? That is my maple leaf...Well, almost. My leaf is rounded at the base but has three lobes just like yours. I had been calling my tree a sugar maple since we inherited it when we bought the property but as it is growing in a very wet spot-- we built our pond there, it was that wet-- I thought Julie may have been right in calling my maple a Red, Trident or Swamp maple (different names for the same Acer Rubrum) I'm now convinced mine is a swamp maple.

  5. Glory, that's a good question, maybe those are all related? All of the sugar maples I am aware of have 3 lobes like mine.
    I'll post a pic of a trident --with a pic of a bonsai(potted trident, and you will see the bark of trident is somewhat similar to the sugar maple too! The base of the leaves is semi-flat/sub-rounded and the lobes are quite sharp!

  6. that is not sugar maple but a red maple. Sugar maples have "u" shaped notches versus what you are showing which is a "V" shaped notch...the bark is distinctly red maple bark.

    1. Hi, Anon, we've always been told these were sugar maples, they have incredibly sweet sap and people make sugar from them. According to the people around here, these are a hybrid. (?) They do not grow as big as the sugar maples in Sault Ste. Marie.
      Which area of the country are you from? I know the sugar maples in the Sault are different. Thanks for commenting, that's why I showed both green and red stages of the leaves. ~R

  7. it is neither red or sugar maple. I believe you have a black maple tree, Acer nigrum. They are sweeter than sugar maple, have the lobes as shown, 3 instead of 5. and are furry on the back. now that it is winter you can tell by the buds. look for dark brown and hairy scales on the buds fior black maple, vs sharp-pointed buds.


    1. Hey, thanks, Anon, I'll check out those buds. The sap, if leaking from a woodpecker hole or crack--in the spring--is amazingly sweet! The buds are early yet, but look almost rounded, red/dark red, with no hairy scales on them, at least as of this date.
      I will keep an eye on them as they progress, here in NW Ontario mid-February is early for bud formation. Thanks so much for the information! When I do see the buds fully developed, I'll make a note of them. Thanks again. ":)


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