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Identify Sugar Maple Trees in the Spring

I always thought fall was the best time to ID any tree. But just a few months ago I learned that identifying sugar maple in spring is easier than I ever imagined. Which means spring is the ideal time to start preparing for the best maple syrup winter ever.

And, yes, we make some amazing maple syrup on our New England farm every winter. For more details on how to make your own backyard maple syrup, peruse these posts.

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I first got the idea to try my hand at springtime maple ID when I read The Sugarmaker’s Companion, which I reviewed here.

Michael Farrell explains that “approximately every four years, sugar maples will produce a bumper seed crop.” (p. 149) In other sources, I’ve read that bumper crops show up, on average, every 4 to 7 years. Since this is my first year of sugar maple spring ID, I have no comparison. So I truly don’t know if this year in New England the sugar maples were so easy for me to ID because it was indeed a bumper year or not. I guess I’ll have to share an update next spring.

Learn to recognize the bright-neon-green buds.

Every glance out any window of our old farmhouse, every walk in the woods, and every long drive along back roads of the Granite State, I gleefully noticed the beautiful, bright-neon-green buds of sugar maples all spring long.

On our frequent long drives north on I-89 this spring I was shocked at how obvious–and prevalent–the sugar maple groves were along the long stretch of interstate.

In this video, I point out a few sugar maples in our front field.

Unfortunately, the brilliant neon green color of the maple buds isn’t very obvious in the video. This picture gives you a better idea of the true brilliance of the sugar maple’s spring buds, followed by an up close picture of the buds. (This is the tree that is behind me in the video, seen from another angle.)

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Truly, the neon green color of the buds and new leaves of the sugar maple are so distinctive, once you start to see it from a distance, you will know a sugar maple from afar. The only other even slightly similar colored buds are the birch trees, but their white bark distinguishes them in a heartbeat. And birch trees are typically shorter and more round shaped overall than a maple tree. If you’re not certain if the neon green color you see is indeed a grove of sugar maples, getting a glimpse of the unique dangling clusters of blooms will reassure you.

What else does a sugarmaker need to know?

Of course, simply knowing how to identify a sugar maple is just the first step towards amazing DIY, backyard maple syrup. Turns out, I’ve written about all the steps, right here on SoulyRested. Read about how to mark your trees that you want to tap, when to start gathering supplies, and how to drill your taps. Discover if you live where you can tap for sap, read 7 questions you should know the answer to before you tap your trees, and find out how to save hundreds with your backyard syrup making. Here I outline our complete step-by-step process of making syrup, and here I explain when to stop tapping maple trees. I also explain what is my favorite maple product we make on our homestead and why. (I bet you’ll be surprised!) +++++

Plus, you’ll want to keep an eye out for my new book that’s currently in production: Sweet Maple: How to make maple products & bake with them. Naturally. Not only will it be the perfect guide for anyone who wants to try making backyard syrup, but no maple tree taping is required in order to fall in love with this book. It will include fascinating historical facts about maple syrup production, as well as details on how anyone can make maple sugar and maple cream (YUM!) right in their own kitchen, using real maple syrup that they can purchase in any store. Be sure to follow along here–by typing your email into the box at the end of this post. Then you’ll be one of the first to know when my new book hits the press! Even better, download the preview e-booklet as soon as you sign up. (See the end of this post for all the details.)


Take a second to save these posts for later.

I know I come across helpful pointers online all the time that I plan on coming back to, only to realize later that I didn’t save the information, or I saved it but don’t remember where I saved it. So I wanted to save you the 20-minute heartache of floundering around for this muli-part DIY syrup series when you need it. You can PIN each post right here.

PIN Part 1, about how to identify maple trees and mark them in the fall, as well as gathering some of your preliminary maple tree tapping supplies

PIN Part 2, about when to tap maple trees and how to drill your taps. This post also covers how to know if you live where you can tap successfully and 7 questions you need to know the answers to before you tap your trees.

PIN Part 3, about a reverse osmosis filter–what it is, how to build one yourself, and how it can save you hundreds a year in your backyard syrup making process.

PIN Part 4, the step-by-step guide to boiling your sap. This posts walks you through every important detail you need to know when processing your syrup, from tree to pancake.

PIN Part 5, about how you know when it’s time to stop collecting sap and start removing your taps for the season.

PIN Part 6, about my favorite maple product we make on our homestead.

PIN Part 7 (this post), about how to identify sugar maples in the springtime and why sugar maples are the best maples for making maple syrup.

It was a cold, difficult winter for me, and I’m not even talking about the weather… So I wasn’t sad to pack away our sweet, magical, syrup-making equipment and usher in a new season filled with neon green blooms.

Introduce a child to the joys of nature.

Once you got the hang of it, you may realize you know a child who would love identifying trees, as well as insects, flowers, birds, and more that they discover in nature. If so, glance at this post and discover what our family has been doing for almost 2 decades to encourage a love of nature study while creating an amazing family heirloom.

Identifying the joys, as well as heartaches, of spring.

Spring on the farm was, indeed, a much needed joy to my heart, complete with a beautiful allegory of God’s sovereignty and love in the form of Eagle, my sweet broody hen, and her adopted chicks. Sadly, this spring also brought me a new set of heartaches. I’ll try to share a few of them, the mistakes I made in the midst of them, and what I’ve learned from them now on the other side, in future posts.

When my heart is ready.

For now, glance at my Resource Page if you’d like to get a glimpse of all the supplies I use and recommend if you plan on trying your hand at backyard DIY maple syrup making.

Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food. Genesis 2:9

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Many readers often ask what camera I use to take the images you find here on SoulyRested. I love my Nikon; you can read more about my camera and even purchase your own here.

Please take a second to follow along here on SoulyRested to catch up on a few of my memorable mishaps, enjoy musings about my centuries-old farmhouse, or glean a little parenting/homeschooling insight from this momma who’s been failing at the effort for almost 2 decades. I hope my focus always helps you Keep it Simple while being Souly Rested on Christ.

As soon as you subscribe, you’ll have immediate access to my subscriber library of resources, which I’m continually adding to. I’m betting you’ll enjoy my recipes for refreshing Maple Sap Switchel and my to-die-for Whoopie Pie Cookies, along with a long list of other homesteading, homeschooling, and encouraging printables. You can even snag a printable tree ID page to document all the details you want to know about you sugar maples!

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RIGHT NOW, only through August, all SoulyRested subscribers have access to my 14-page, full-color e-booklet: Maple Deliciousness, in 8 steps. It’s free until August 31st to all SoulyRested subscribers. It will be available for purchase in my online shop starting September first.

If you’d like your own downloadable copy of Maple Deliciousness today, just sign up with SoulyRested right here.

Simply type your email below, and you’ll soon be enjoying your own complimentary copy of Maple Deliciousness, in 8 steps. 

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