Clusters of Sugar Maple flowers. All flowers are male (with stamens emerging) except for two female flowers at the top in the middle where you can see the two pistils emerging from the yellow-green hood.

For the past five days or so, the Sugar Maples throughout the Kawarthas have been covered in a garb of pale lemon, with countless thousands of tassel-like flowers hanging from the twigs. As many as two dozen individual flowers – all male, all female or a mixture of both – can often be found in the same 3 to 4 inch tassel. Each flower is at the end of a long stalk  (pedicel) that is covered with tiny hairs. The actual body of each individual flower is about 1/4″ in length and consists of a yellowish green hood  (made up of five sepals but no real petals) and a number of structures sticking out of the hood. On the male flowers, these are short, yellow-tipped, pollen-bearing  stamens (usually about 6-8).  On the female flower, usually at the end of shorter stalks, you will find two pistils emerging. Seen at the right angle, a female flower almost looks like the head of a crane with its beak open.  Once pollinated, female flowers will develop into keys (samaras) that become mature during the fall. The tassels swing back and forth in the wind which facilitates the release of the wind-borne pollen. The flowers develop at different rates so that the tree does not pollinate itself.

Observer: Drew Monkman

Categories: Sightings

Drew Monkman

I am a retired teacher, naturalist and writer with a love for all aspects of the natural world, especially as they relate to seasonal change.