An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Porcupines Tapping Out

porcupine tap IMG_3494At least one porcupine got a jump on humans this sugaring season. A porcupine eats outer tree bark in order to access the phloem (layer of inner bark cells that transport nutrients) and cambium (produces phloem and xylem cells) layers of a tree, its primary winter diet. In eating these layers, the porcupine unintentionally cuts into the xylem, or sapwood, where water and dissolved minerals (sap) are transported between the roots and crown of the tree. Unintentionally, porcupines tap the trees whose phloem and cambium they eat. In this case, the weather had warmed up enough to cause pressure in the tree, which in turn caused the sugar maple’s sap to flow just as a hungry porcupine happened along. Soon thereafter, the temperature dropped, causing the sap to freeze, forming icicles. While they looked good enough to sample, one whiff of them told me that sap was not their sole ingredient! (They were located beneath the porcupine’s den in a hollow tree, from which urine flows freely.)

3 responses

  1. Kyle Jones

    Yuck. That’s going to make me think twice about nibbling on sapcicles this spring! Thanks for sharing.

    February 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm

  2. Kathy Schillemat

    Have you heard my latest porcupine riddle? This was prompted by the discovery of a beech that had been stripped by a porcupine. What do you called a smooth barked tree that has been stripped by a porcupine? A nude beech. Hope it gives you a chuckle.

    February 21, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Leave a Reply to Kathy Schillemat Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s