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Kentucky Color: Sugar Maple leaves have wide color variation

Genetic diversity may account for wide variation in leaf color; hybridization is another answer. Beautiful in all seasons, the Sugar Maple is an important timber, food, and shade resource
Next earlier Kentucky Color essay: Southern Red Oaks

By Billy Joe Fudge, President, Homeplace on Green River, Inc.
6048 New Columbia RD, Campbellsville, KY

Sugar Maple is the second most shade tolerant timber tree in North America behind only American Beech. It can live and grow very slowly for years in the shade of other trees surviving on only indirect, filtered sunlight just waiting for its opportunity to reach for the sun.

It is a true Northeastern species growing from Southern Canada down to the Southern Tennessee border and over through Missouri.

It thrives on cool, moist, North and East facing slopes and produces one of the most expensive wood anomalies, Birds-eye Maple. Scientists have very mixed explanations as to why this unpredictable anomaly occurs.

The most popular and most tasty product to come from a tree comes from Sugar Maple and that is of course Maple Syrup. Maple Syrup is so expensive because forty gallons of sap must be collected and boiled down to make just one gallon of syrup.

I have a New Hampshire connection to the absolute best Maple Syrup. If you have never had straight from the tree, same year Maple Syrup you dont know what youre missing. Let me know if you want the best for the fall and winter season. Besides the best pancakes, drizzled over a good quality vanilla ice cream is so good.

To address Ms. Lewis question about the different coloration of leaves this year, I think you can see from the picture that the genetic diversity in Sugar Maple is present to produce just about any variation of yellow, orange, or red. Genetic predisposition and environmental conditions can cause deviations from year to year, tree to tree, and many times limb to limb on the same tree particularly in Sugar Maple.

Also, Sugar Maple can hybridize with Black and Red Maples to produce some additional variations from tree to tree.
For more Kentucky Color articles, enter "Kentucky Color" in the Search box. For more articles by Billy Joe Fudge, enter his name or variant B.J. Fudge.

This story was posted on 2009-11-03 03:23:01
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Kentucky Color: Sugar Maple leaf color has wide range

2009-11-03 - Photo by Billy Joe Fudge, President, Homeplace on Green River, Inc., 6048 New Columbia RD, Campbellsville, KY. The normal fall foliage of the Sugar Maple is bright yellow, as in the picture on the left, taken Scenic KY Highway 704. The photo on the right is of the same species, but shows a mottled coloration, with tones from deep red to bright yellow. The coloration likely results from genetic composition and/or hybridization.
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