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Life History and Disturbance Response of Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Family: Aceraceae
Guild: persistent, slow-growing understory tolerant
Functional Lifeform: large deciduous tree
Ecological Role: found on moist, well-drained, fertile sites; survives for long periods under heavy shade and responds well to release
Lifespan, yrs (typical/max): 300/400
Shade Tolerance: very tolerant
Height, m: 27-37
Canopy Tree: yes
Pollination Agent: insects and wind
Seeding, yrs (begins/optimal/declines): 25/40/200
Mast Frequency, yrs: 2-5
New Cohorts Source: seeds or sprouts
Flowering Dates: late spring
Flowers/Cones Damaged by Frost: no
Seedfall Begins: early fall
Seed Banking: up to 1 yr
Cold Stratification Required: yes
Seed Type/Dispersal Distance/Agent: winged/ to 200 m/ wind
Season of Germination: early spring
Seedling Rooting System: variable
Sprouting: stump sprouts and root suckers common, occasional layerings
Establishment Seedbed Preferences:
Substrate: variable
Light: overstory shade
Moisture: moist required
Temperature: cool
Disturbance response:
Fire: Sugar maple increases during long fire intervals; it has proliferated where fire has been suppressed and has invaded communities where fire was formerly frequent. In the mesic, closed-canopy forests where sugar maple grows, litter is usually moist and fires that occur are often low-intensity surface fires. However, damaging fires of moderate to high intensity can occur in dry autumns, after leaves have fallen. Sugar maple is considered to be fire-sensitive; its thin bark is easily damaged by even low-intensity surface fires. Large trees occasionally survive light fires and may exhibit visible fire scars. Sprouting is poor following fire, but seedlings occasionally sprout from the root crown. Postfire establishment occurs primarily through an abundance of wind-dispersed seed.
Weather: Sugar maple is extremely sensitive to flooding during the growing season, and susceptible to winter sunscald and glaze ice damage.
Air pollution: Sugar maple is tolerant to ozone, sulphur dioxide, and hydrogen fluoride. Symptoms of foliar injury were noted in some areas of high ambient ozone, but not in others. Seedlings exhibited some reduced height growth, biomass accumulation, and photosynthesis rates under controlled fumigation with ozone. Genetically variable response to ozone fumigation was noted among individual seedlings.