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Posts tagged “Sugar Maple

Bruce Spanworms Emerging & Mating

11-7-13 winter moth IMG_4880I try not to repeat post topics, but in the past two days the sudden emergence of inch-long, tan moths in the woods has been so dramatic that I couldn’t not mention them. These ghost-like, light tan moths are referred to by entomologists as Bruce Spanworm moths, Operophtera bruceata, named after an entomologist by the name of Mr. Bruce. They are often called Winter Moths, due to the fact that they are one of the latest moths to be seen flying, as well as Hunter Moths, as they share the woods with hunters at this time of year. From October to December Bruce Spanworm moths emerge, mate and lay eggs. While this timing is unusual, it makes sense when you think about it — many birds, their primary predators, have left for their wintering grounds. All the moths you see in the air are males — females are wingless and cannot fly. The females crawl up the trunk or branch of a tree and send out pheromones to attract winged males. After mating, the female lays eggs which hatch in the spring, and the larvae feed on a wide variety of deciduous leaves, favoring Trembling Aspens, Sugar Maples, American Beeches and willows. Periodic outbreaks of these caterpillars can result in heavy defoliation.

NB: “This is easily confused with Operophtera brumata – Winter Moth, which is an introduced species from Europe and an abundant pest in the Northeast. Also easily confused with Autumnal Moth (Epirrita autumnata).” Kent McFarland


Full Moon

Newly-emerged Sugar Maple leaves in last night’s full moon.


Sugar Maple Buds & Bark

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Maples have what is referred to as “opposite” branching – the buds, leaves and branches are positioned opposite one another. If you look at this photo of the terminal bud of a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) you’ll see that the two lateral buds (on either side of the terminal bud) are directly across from each other.  This is relatively rare in the woody plant world — you’ve narrowed down the identity of a tree significantly if you determine that it has opposite branching (ashes and dogwoods, among others, share this characteristic). The buds of sugar maple are pointed.  The appearance of its bark depends on the age of the tree you’re looking at.  Saplings and younger branches are quite smooth (right branch in photo), whereas the bark of an old sugar maple is furrowed with vertical ridges curled outward along one side (left side of photo).


Tree Fruit and Seed Identification

One nice thing about having the ground covered with snow in October and November is that there is an additional tool available for tree identification.  Like all flowering plants, trees have fruits which contain seeds.  The fruits of many trees fall to the ground this time of year.  They are very helpful identification tools, especially when they are so obvious against the white snow.  In the photograph, there are fruits from five different trees:  starting at the top and going clockwise is the fruit of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), referred to as paired samaras by botanists.  Each of the two seeds contains a papery wing that aids in dispersal.  Next is the fruit of the white ash (Fraxinus  americana), which has winged seeds borne in clusters.  Eastern hophornbeam’s  (Ostrya virginiana)  fruit is a cluster of papery bladders, which usually separate upon dispersal.  Each bladder contains a seed.  Along the bottom is the fruit of American basswood or linden (Tilia americana) ; several round seeds are borne on a stalk which is attached to a single modified leaf.  The last two clusters are the fruit of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). They consist of structures that look like little bird feet (of which there are several in the photograph) that contain individual, tiny winged seeds (scattered throughout the photograph).