John Muir traveled through the Salish Sea region in 1888 and described- ‘magnificent groves’ of maples, ‘attaining heights of seventy-five to a hundred feet and a diameter of four to eight feet…. Laden with long drooping mosses beneath and rows of ferns on their upper surfaces, thus making a grand series of richly ornamented, interlacing arches…. The largest of these maple groves that I have yet found is on the right bank of the Snoqualmie River…. Never have I seen a finer forest ceiling, nor a more picturesque one.’ ‘Not even in the great maple woods of Canada have I seen trees either as large or with so much striking, picturesque character.’ (excerpted from Steep Trails, published posthumously in 1918)
He was speaking of our beautiful Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum, one of our native hardwoods. The leaves can be enormous, a foot across, as described by its common and scientific name, turning a brilliant gold in fall. In spring ki is adorned with drooping cream-colored flower drupes, which soon transform into clusters of v-shaped winged seeds, samaras, which whirl erratically to the ground in the Autumn gusts. The nectar from these flowers provides an early spring food for our bees, which makes a delicious, prized honey. In late winter, the seeds sprout and carpet the forest floor and are delicious and ornamental in early spring salads.
Many years ago, I heard that one could tap Bigleaf Maple for syrup, though, I was told, much lower in sugar and not as tasty as the syrup from the Sugar Maple of the Northeast forests. Nonetheless, I decided to make my own taps, called spiles, carved from wood, and following advice for tapping sugar maple, I set my taps on some nearby trees- sun-facing, mid-size trees, during days of freezing nights and warm days. I got nothing, not even a drop.
To see more read the full blog here
To learn more about ‘Bigleaf Maple Syrup’ Workshop- February 1, 2020 go here
Photo by Chrissy Valluzzi
To learn more about Heidi Bohan and her work: http://www.heidibohan.com
To see more about her book, ‘The People of Cascadia- Pacific Northwest Native American History’ go to: www.peopleofcascadia.com
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