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Monitor My Maple Project

Monitor My Maple is a citizen science project that engages North Country residents in observing the phenology, or seasonal changes, in local maple trees. We benefit from maples in a variety of ways: they provide critical wildlife habitat, high quality timber, gorgeous fall color displays, and, of course, the maple syrup we pour over our pancakes.  However, recent research indicates that maple growth is declining in our region, and there is concern among scientists about how a warming and increasingly unpredictable climate will affect both maple health and maple syrup production.Through the Monitor My Maple Project, YOU can help contribute to our knowledge of how climate, habitat, and human activities are affecting these cherished local species. 

Why Monitor Maples? By creating a network of people observing and recording the dates of seasonal changes in sugar maples, we can learn a wealth of information about tree health across the North Country. This will help us plan to preserve maple trees and the traditions that surround them. Check out our Monitor My Maple tutorial video below.


How to Participate: Monitoring maples is easy, and it’s a great way to get outdoors and observe the environment more closely. First, pick a maple (preferably a sugar maple) in your yard, near your workplace, or in a park you visit frequently. Then, create a free user account on natureupnorth.org so that you can share your maple observations online. The Monitor My Maple project is accessed by clicking the “Citizen Science” menu on our home page. 

During the spring and fall, observe your maple tree regularly. In the spring, record the dates when maple buds break and when their leaves fully form. In the fall, collect and record data on when leaves begin to change color and drop off the tree. Record this information on either the Spring or Fall Maple Monitoring data page, depending on the season. The more observations you can record, the better, and we encourage you to enter data even if your tree hasn't changed since the last time you entered data. To date, local residents have contributed more than 1,400 maple observations on natureupnorth.org.  


What You’ll Need: Maple monitoring requires a couple simple household items. You will need:  

  • A tape measure or cloth measuring tape to measure the circumference of your tree
  • A string (if you are using a metal tape measure)
  • A paper data sheet or smartphone
  • An internet connection (to log observations on natureupnorth.org)
  • A keen eye
Ready to go? Click here to access the Spring Monitor My Maple Data form! Note:You'll need to have a natureupnorth.org user account to view the form. If you prefer to print data sheets and enter the data later, the spring and fall Monitor My Maple data forms can be downloaded below. 
Identifying Sugar Maples. There are five species of maple native to St. Lawrence County -  sugar, silver, red, striped, and boxelder.  Several other species have been introduced, including Norway and Japanese maples.  For this project, we are particularly interested in sugar maples.  However, if you cannot find a sugar maple near you, we accept data from red, silver, and Norway maples too. During Fall Monitor My Maple you'll be able to identify your tree by its leaves.

The sugar maple leaf has smooth edges, five major points (lobes) and U-shape spaces between the lobes, called sinuses.  The sugar maple leaf is represented on the Canadian flag.  In contrast, red maple leaves have a jagged leaf edge, three or five lobes, and V-shaped sinuses.  Norway maple leaves are similar to sugar maple, but are often wider, darker, and produce a white, milky sap at the base of the leaf stem when pulled off the tree. See the image below for comparison.


Identifying sugar maple trees is harder in the winter and early spring when you only have buds and bark for comparison. Sugar maple buds are brown, slender, and pointed at the tips. The terminal bud (last one on the branch tip) will usually be in a three-pronged arrangement. Red maple buds are red in color, and blunter and more rounded than sugar maple buds. They tend to grow in clusters.  Silver maple buds look similar to red maple, but if you scratch the bark and take a whiff, you may notice an unpleasant odor. See below for examples of maple buds. Note that, depending on the time of year and the position on the tree, buds may appear to be more of less swollen.
Accessing Data:  We make Monitor My Maple data accessible to the public for use by educators, researchers, and natural resource managers. Click here for the most up-to-date data sheet for Fall Observations, and here for Spring observations from 2014-2015. We will update our datasets seasonally.  
Have questions? Don't hesitate to contact us!