204. Tuscawilla Park - Red Maples

(Acer rubrum)

The Red Maple Tree, according to the US Forest Service, is the most common tree in North America.  It grows from Canada up north, to Miami down south, and from the eastern coast westward to Texas!   In most places, Red Maples are not picky about soils, being perfectly content in either a swamp, farmland, or poor rocky soils. But here in Florida, with sandy soil, you are more likely to find it in parks, front yards, and in landscaping along a city sidewalk.  These places will tend to be more moist.   Why is this tree so popular?  In one word, RED!  In the autumn, the lush green leaves turn a brilliant scarlet.  

Maple seeds are an essential food-source for wildlife

A better use for all those hundreds of seeds are as toys! Children love to play with Maple seeds… commonly referred to as “helicopters” because they come twirling and whirling down with a light breeze.   Go ahead, indulge yourself… if the tree is in seed, pick one up from the ground and toss it high.   Now.. try to catch it!  

What about Maple Syrup?  All maple trees have sugary sap.  But only the Sugar Maple, found in Pennsylvania northward, has enough sugar to make the effort worthwhile.  It has a whopping 2% sugar in the sap.  It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  Red Maples, on the other hand have only 1% sugar.  So, it would take 80 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.  It also requires a long hard freeze and dormancy period, and good rich soil to develop the typical maple flavor.  Unfortunately, Florida has neither. 

All maple trees are very important parts of an ecosystem- whether natural, in a forest or field, or a manicured park like ours.  They provide beauty and shade for us , and shelter, nesting places, and food for many birds and animals.  Take a moment as you walk to admire them.