Sugar maple (Acer saccharum), sometimes called hard maple or rock maple, is one of the largest and more important of the hardwoods. It grows on approximately 12.5 million hectares (31 million acres) or 9 percent of the hardwood land and has a net volume of about 130 million m3 (26 billion fbm) or 6 percent of the hardwood sawtimber volume in the United States. The greatest commercial volumes are presently in Michigan, New York, Maine, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania (53). In most regions, both the sawtimber and growing stock volumes are increasing, with increased production of saw logs, pulpwood, and more recently, firewood.
THE TREE: Hard maples grow to heights of 120 ft (36 m), with a diameter of 3 ft (1 m). Hard maple bark is light gray to brown and somewhat smooth on young trees; on older trees, the bark is gray to almost black with long, irregular plates or scales which often loosen on the sides. Hard maple leaves are 3 to 5 inches long, and are usually 5 lobed, the lobes are generally wavy toothed. The leaves are dark green on the upper surface, paler green below; in autumn, turing brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red.
WOOD CHARACTERISTICS: Maple lumber comes principally from the Middle Atlantic and Lake States, which together account for about two-thirds of the production. The wood of sugar maple and black maple is known as hard maple; that of silver maple, red maple, and boxelder as soft maple. The sapwood of the maples is commonly white with a slight reddish-brown tinge; the heartwood is light reddish brown, but sometimes is considerably darker. The sapwood is from 3 to 5+ inches (76 to 127+ mm) thick.
Hard maple has a fine, uniform texture, turns well on a lathe, is resistant to abrasion and has no characteristic odor or taste. It is heavy, strong, stiff, hard, and resistant to shock, and it has large shrinkage. Sugar maple is generally straight grained but the grain also occurs as “birds-eye,” “curly,” and “fiddleback” grain.
Sugar maple (Hard Maple) wood is tough, durable, hard, heavy, and strong. It is well suited for many uses and is commonly used to make furniture, paneling, flooring, and veneer. It is also used for gunstocks, tool handles, plywood dies, cutting blocks, woodenware, novelty products, sporting goods, bowling pins, and musical instruments.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Sugar maple (Hard Maple) grows from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick westward to Ontario and Manitoba, southward through Minnesota, and eastern Kansas into northeastern Texas. It extends eastward to Georgia and northward through the Appalachian Mountains into New England. Local populations occur in northwestern South Carolina, northern Georgia, and northeastern South Dakota. Disjunct populations are known from the Wichita Mountains of southwestern Oklahoma.