Trees to plant in norther Minnesota

Asked January 3, 2016, 1:22 AM EST

Hello - I have 20 acres in near the intersection of St. Louis, Koochiching and Itasca Counties. I have a mix of Poplar and Coniferous trees, I have a large open spot that I'd love to plant some maple trees. Someday my grandkids could tap them for syrup. What species of male would grow the best in this zone, should I plant saplings or lager trees, and how much space do they need, I don't want to crowd them. Any help you could offer would be appreciated. I am excited to do this,

St. Louis County Minnesota maple trees maple syrup tappng planting trees

1 Response

Thank you for the question. There are 4 species of maple tree used for sap production in Minnesota with the favorite being the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). It has a higher percentage of sugar in its sap so doesn't take as long to boil down to syrup as does the sap from other species (red maple (Acer rubrum), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), and boxelder (Acer negundo). Not all the maple tree species are hardy to your growing zone of 2b-3b, but the sugar maple should be OK. Your northern location has a short growing period so it will take many years before the trees are large enough to tap but you are planning far into the future anyway! Of course this will depend on whether you plant saplings or much larger trees. Saplings will be cheaper and easier to plant but may take longer to mature than planting larger trees. You will have to decide what is best for you to do.
The maple trees will need full day sun and moist, rich soil so choose your planting site carefully.
Here is what the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources says about planting distance: Maple trees intended for maple syrup production should be planted 30 feet apart in all directions. Sap production is greatest in trees grown out in the open where the trees can develop large tops or canopies. At this distance, an acre of land can safely support 50 to 60 trees https://www.uidaho.edu/~/media/Files/Extension/Forestry/Forest%20Products/Alternative%20Products/Sugar%20maple.ashx
Here are a few more publications for you to read and learn more:

http://www.extension.umn.edu/environment/trees-woodlands/homemade-maple-syrup/ all about making maple syrup in Minnesota.

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/trees-shrubs/identifying-maple-trees-for-syrup-production-minnesota-maple-series/ all about the 4 species of maple trees in Minnesota.

http://maple.dnr.cornell.edu/pubs/trees.htm everything you need to know about growing sugar maple trees.

Good luck and thank you for contacting Extension!