March 11, 2021

Maple Trees In Utah? Bigtooth Maple (Canyon Maple)

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In 1663, Robert Boyle a chemist in America informed Europeans about the tree in the new world that produced a sweet substance. Other accounts say John Smith was among the first settlers who remarked about the Native Americans’ sugar processing and the fact that they used the product for barter. When we pour that sweet liquid gold on our pancakes we often think of big, tall Vermont maples being tapped for syrup, like Pa in Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. However, those of us in Utah and the Rocky Mountain region do indeed have a native maple treeThe bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum), gives the best fall color display of any tree. Most of the beautiful yellow, orange, and red colorations in Utah's canyons in the early fall come from this native tree. And because it is native to Utah it can withstand some drought. This tree is a broadleaf tree with a spreading, rounded crown. Its height will average about 35 feet, and the trunk diameter averages 9 inches at maturity. 

This maple goes by many different names including, Lost maple, Sabinal maple, Western sugar maple, Uvalde bigtooth maple, Canyon maple, Southwestern bigtooth maple, Plateau bigtooth maple, and Limerock maple. Related to the sugar maple, it was indeed a source of sugar and syrup for the early Mormon pioneers in Utah. However, unlike the maples back east it takes 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to make one gallon of syrup and the sap is much less concentrated and takes 160 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup. So you can see it is not quite the same high producer as other maples and never could have produced enough for trade in this region. 

Somewhat common, it can be seen in canyon areas, around Park City trails and university campuses. Its medium size makes canyon maple a good tree for small- or large-scale residential landscapes, parks or other open areas, and street plantings where the parking strip width is at least four feet (six feet is better). With its toughness and better adaptability relative to non-native maples, canyon maple has great landscape potential