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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.

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. 


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. In the meantime, download my two seriously sweet free eBooks about maple as soon as you sign up!–>

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

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll love being a part of the facebook group I admin. Maple Syrup Making. It’s full of helpful maple enthusiasts like yourself from around the world.


I’d love to connect! To find me in some other neck of the woods, just click any (or every!) box below:


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That video I promised you, about why you should never take your eyes off of boiling sap.–>

PIN this for later! Just hover over this image for the Pinterest logo.–>

Please follow along!

Please take a second to follow along here on SoulyRested to catch up on a few of my memorable mishaps, discover fascinating things about my centuries-old farmhouse, glean a little parenting/homeschooling insight from this momma who’s been failing at the effort for almost 2 decades, or enjoy the inside scoop on the secrets other legit homesteaders might not tell you.

I hope my focus always encourages you, because simple joys require hard work. Let’s face it, we all need all the encouragement we can get!

As soon as you subscribe (in the box at the end of this post), you’ll have immediate access to my Resource Library, which includes many useful printables and my FREE EBOOKs.

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If you’d like any of these resources, just scroll to the end of this page and sign up!

All of these resources, and lots more, are included in my Subscriber Resource Library:

A yummy (piece-of-cake easy!) recipe for Maple Cream Icing.

A printable list of the 22 trees that are popular for tapping across the U.S. (And even around the world!)

Links to helpful resource pages to aid you as you consider tapping your trees.

An impressive list of ingredients in all-natural maple sweeteners. (Compared to refined sugar, there’s no comparison.)

A recipe for Maple Sap Switchel (This amazing homemade electrolyte drink is like Gatorade but so much better!)

And two FREE maple-infused eBooks, Maple Goodness and A Sweet Taste.

Type your email below, and you’ll soon be enjoying printouts from my Resource Library, resources that you can access and download today.

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