Early Tapping at Harvard Forest

While the snow and cold has finally arrived, warm temperatures last week started sap flowing in Massachusetts. I tapped the trees on February 1, the earliest I’ve tapped by more than 2 weeks, and collected sap throughout the first week of February. Collaborators in Virginia and Indiana have also tapped. Winter has now settled back in though, and it looks like there won’t be any sap to boil for the next week to ten days. How will the season turn out? Will the mild winter lead to an early end to the season? I’ll continue to update the figure above as I collect data on sap flow throughout the season, for those who want to follow along.

It’s also the season for media outlets to do stories on maple syrup. The Post-TribuneChicago Tonight, and Indiana Public Radio each did articles about our newest sample site at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The Worchester Telegram ran a story. Climate Central also published a piece. UMass Amherst put out a press release that was picked up by several local news outlets including MassLiveWWLP-22News, the Westfield News and The Recorder. A UMass Amherst journalism student wrote a blog post.

March 30, 2016. The tapping season is officially over – cold nights and warm days of late have not resulted in dripping taps. This is not because the sap isn’t flowing in the trees; instead, the taps have become clogged with bacteria, which also clouds the little sap that does manage to drip from the taps. A warm spell 3 weeks ago caused the end of big flows, although sap continued to dribble out for a while, at least in the sugar maples. Overall, the early season was good for sap flow -second largest in the past 5 years, but only an average year for syrup since the sugar content of the sap was on the low side – second lowest in the past 5 years. I collected sap 25 times, the most I’ve done in a year. Most of the sap flows were low to moderate, but a few were quite high, including the 2 biggest one-day flows I’ve seen.

The red maple flower buds have begun to open. It is spring. Time to let winter, and the sugar season, slip into memory.