is gold in those leaves particularly if you grow the
tree many call the Southern sugar maple. This tree is
native from Texas to Florida and as far north as
Missouri and Illinois. In other words, many of us and
grow it and relish in all of its fall glory. There is a
catch to the story.
speaking it is somewhat of a taxonomic nightmare with
many scientists turning it into what might resemble a
political battle. One of my favorite Internet reference
sights in the world of horticulture and nature comes
from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center,
www.wildflower.org. So I give them complete credit
for the next few words ó the botanical name according
to them is Acer barbatum with the Synonym(s): Acer
barbatum var. longii, Acer barbatum var. villipes, Acer
floridanum, Acer floridanum var. longii, Acer floridanum
var. villipes, Acer nigrum var. floridanum, Acer
saccharinum var. floridanum, Acer saccharum ssp.
floridanum, Acer saccharum var. floridanum,
Saccharodendron barbatum, Saccharodendron floridanum.
you see the dilemma. This incredible native tree that
deserves to be admired, loved and planted will be a
challenge for you to locate. The first issue is that it
is native and the second problem will be what-do-you
tell your nurseryman. Here at the Coastal Georgia
Botanical Gardens it has been a tree of mystical color,
especially when you add a little Spanish moss.
fact many of the trees are coming out of a sugar high
giving us some great fall color. A sugar high may not be
ideal in children, but our trees certainly rewarded us
as that extra sugar got stored in their systems.
we look at fall color scientifically, words like
carotenoids, pigments, chlorophyll, auxin, gibberellins,
other growth hormones and enzymes enter into the
discussion. Those words cause me to have a rapid
heartbeat as I think back to plant physiology classes.
simplistic terms conditions for great fall color boils
down to cool night temperatures and warm, sunny days.
The climate has the biggest effect on the production of
anthocyanin pigments that intensify the red and scarlet
colors. Conditions that favor these colors are sunny
days and nighttime temperatures between 45 degrees and
freezing. Much of our area experienced this without any
freezing temperatures to date.
though the chlorophyll content of the leaf declines in
the fall, it is still important that photosynthesis take
place. If an abundance of cloudy weather prevents
photosynthesis from occurring, leaf color will be
mediocre even if temperatures are ideal. This also can
weaken the leaf, making it easy for a northern wind to
blow it off the tree.
night temperatures limit the movement of sugar from the
leaves. It also reduces the rate of respiration in the
leaf, so some sugars are converted to carbon dioxide.
Those sugars retained however are converted to colorful
anthocyanin pigments, hence the sugar high connotation.
with perfect climatic conditions, if we donít have the
best species of trees, we are lost from the start. Start
with a good species like the Southern sugar maple, which
just happens to also be the rock maple, Caddo maple and
Florida maple and hammock maple.
can expect yours to reach a height of 20 to 25 feet with
a rounded shape. The National champion is in Georgia and
has a height of 100 feet by 64 feet so it does have some
extra potential. It also has a good track record of
being resistant to both wind and ice. Oh just for the
record the USDA says the official name is Acer