Having grown up in New England, I still always associate the month of February with maple sugaring. While the maple sugar season starts later up in New England, the beginning of February marks the start of the season here at the Arboretum. This past Saturday 10 families joined me in learning how we go about identifying and tapping our maple trees. We went over how to identify maple trees (look for the opposite branching), how to tell if the tree is old enough (it must be at least 30 inches in circumference) and why we use a brace and bit drill versus a power drill (we want to minimize the amount of friction inside the hole). After our introductory lesson we headed down the orange trail towards the vernal pool and tapped several maple trees growing on the hillside.
You may be wondering why we tap the trees at this time of year... For one, the trees are dormant in the winter and are not using their stored sugars to grow. Another reason has to do with the temperature –in order for the sap to run, the temperature needs to be below freezing followed by days with temperatures in the high 30's and low 40's. This constant fluctuation between cold and warm will keep the sap flowing. The maple sugaring season ends when the tree buds begin to swell; at this point the tree begins using its sugars so the sap is no longer sweet.
Be sure to come to the Arboretum's Maple Sugaring Fest on Sunday, February 26th from 1pm to 4pm to learn more about the tapping and cooking process, enjoy guided tours, take the Maple Syrup Challenge and have a taste of the Arboretum's maple syrup! The event is held primarily outdoors and is fun for the whole family! Hope to see you then!