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Sycamore Sap and Syrup Field Trial

This study showed that sycamore does produce a sweet sap flow that can be boiled down to roduce a syrup. That syrup had a nice taste, that some people say has a butterscotch like flavor. This is a new sap and syrup product, that will need more work to develop taping strategies that could lead to its commercial production. Likewise we need more information on the sap and syrup chemistry before we can provide guidance to potential syrup producers.

Taphole Injury in Red Maple

Maple tapping guidelines, which specify the number of taps in relation to bole diameter, and the spacing and depth of tapholes, have been devised primarily using sugar maple wounding as a model. With its importance as a present and future resource for maple sap, it is critical that we extend our knowledge about taphole wounds to red maple so that, if necessary, these guidelines can be revised to include the proper and sustainable tapping of this species.

Tapholes in Sugar Maples: What Happens in the Tree

Maple syrup production starts by drilling a taphole in the tree. This process injures the wood, which may become discolored or decayed as a result. If trees are to be tapped, every effort must be made to minimize injury while obtaining the desired amount of sap. Information about tapholes is given here for the benefit of the producer. Some important points discussed are: how trees compartmentalize discolored and decayed wood associated with tapholes, how some tapping procedures lead to cambial dieback around the hole, the problem of overtapping related to increased use of mechanical tappers, and new information on the use of para formaldehyde pills, which can lead to more decay in trees.

Tapping Depth & Sap Quantity

Accepted tapping practices for 7/16 inch spouts with no vacuum called for tap holes to be drilled 2-2.5 inches deep. Later practices for 5/16 inch spouts under vacuum, call for drilling the tree to a depth of 1.5 inches. The reason for the reduction in depth, was to reduce the occurrence of drilling into dead wood, especially on trees with a long history of tapping. This can lead to reduced sap yield. When the 2018 season left us with an unusually low sap yield, the question arose: does tap depth matter when the system is under vacuum?

Tapping on National Forest Lands

When looking to expand the maple industry people often look at the large acreages of forested lands in the public domain. In West Virginia, 16.5 percent of the land is in public ownership, and in Virginia, 17.1 percent. Of that, the largest acreage is managed by the federal National Forest System (NFS). Sugarbush owners adjoining NFS lands might look across the line to tapable maple stands in the national forest. Private citizens or community groups could also look at public lands as a way to get in the business. In this study, we investigated an example of a community group, the Mt. Rogers Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, that is running a successful maple sugaring operation by tapping trees in the adjoining George Washington-Jefferson National Forest. We examined the sugaring operation and the impacts that the sugaring operation is having on the Whitetop community.

Tapping red maple

Sugarmakers should consider tapping red maples to supplement sap production from sugar maples.

Tapping red maple

Sugarmakers should consider tapping red maples to supplement sap production from sugar maples.

Tapping Red Maples

While sugar maples are the gold standard for sap production, red maples are also an important source of sap for maple products.