They were thicker than the hair on a dog’s back! I’m sure they will thin themselves out over time but many will survive and live in the shade of their parents until their opportunity to grow to the canopy. Sugar Maple differs from the other trees in the forest because their young can grow in the heavy shade of the forest.
As kings, Sugar Maples have many servants who support them in their rise to prominence. For instance, the Black Cherry, Hawthorns, and Ash trees among others are the pioneer species that prepare land for the Sugar Maples to live in. These other species move into open areas, grow up, then drop their leaves. Over many years, these servants develop the leaf mulch ground layer that feeds the soils, welcoming Sugar Maple to the woodland. The Maples are not capable of invading new open areas on their own and taking over.
This helps explain why Sugar Maples are best used for landscaping in rich, well-drained soils. They need to be mulched and watered during a drought. We have to treat them like the kings they are.
Particular attention should be paid to drainage when siting Sugar Maples in landscapes. If at any time water sits at the base of the trees it may encounter Verticillium Wilt fungus in the soil. This disease can slowly kill or disfigure trees. The pathogen invades the vascular tissue (plant veins) through the roots and cuts off the flow of water and nutrients. It’s perhaps the number one killer of Sugar Maples in our area.
Fall color is what I think of most when the topic of Sugar Maple is brought up. To me, this is the tree that defines fall color in Wisconsin. The magnificent yellows, oranges, and reds that this species can develop are what weathermen on the T.V. news call peak fall color. I have been watching T.V. and fall color for the vast majority of my life. Though I don’t watch fall color on T.V., (That must be viewed live!), I find it amusing how T.V. weathermen have maps of the state showing the progression of fall color from north to south with portions of the state indicated to be 20% fall color and others to be 50% fall color and others to be at the peak. It’s almost as if this is a volatile event similar to the stock market. It isn’t.
All the trees turn color in a certain order each year. The fall color progresses from north to south based on day-length triggers. Those triggers begin abscission layer formation and cut off chlorophyll production in the plant’s leaves. The chlorophyll dissipates and the yellow, orange, and red pigments begin to show. I would like to see the weathermen show the maps and tell which species of plants are at peak in areas of the state each week. That way we could enjoy the various treats of each species and of course know when it is at the traditional peak color which is, of course, when the Sugar Maples are in their autumn glory.