When Sap Collection Ends

Every maple season we hear that sap collection is finished for the year when dormant buds on maple trees begin to swell and break dormancy.  The primary reason we stop collecting sap is due to the change in the chemical makeup of sap, which will cause off-flavours to develop in syrup that is processed using buddy sap.

As buds begin to swell, metabolic activities initiate things like leaf expansion, stem elongation and the emergence of flowers that will soon be ready for pollination.  It involves consumption of sugar energy that is stored in the tree as starch, production of growth hormones involved in cell division and cell expansion, and production of other chemical by-products of growth.  Basically, the new springtime ingredients flowing in sap are no longer suitable for maple syrup production.

New producers often ask how to know when budbreak occurs, what does buddy sap taste like, and what can they observe for themselves.  The following series of photos show maple buds as dormancy breaks and the point where buddy off-flavour sap begins to show up.

Dormant Bud

April 1, 2013 Dormant Bud from Southern Ontario

 The sap produced during this stage is good.

Enlarged Maple Bud

April 9, 2013 Enlarged Maple Bud form Southern Ontario

The sap produced during this stage is good.

Dormant Bud form Southern Ontario

April 11, 2013 Dormant Bud from Southern Ontario

During this phase a buddy off-flavour is detected in sap and syrup season ends.

Dormant Bud form Southern Ontario

April 22, 2013 Dormant Bud form Southern Ontario

Ten days after the end of sap collection.

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