The sugar maple is an extremely important species to the ecology of many forests in the northern United States and Canada. Pure stands are common, and it is a major component of the northern and Midwestern U.S. hardwood forests. Due to its need for cold winters, sugar maple is mostly found north of the 42nd parallel in USDA growing zones 3–5. It is less common in the southern part of its range (USDA Zone 6) where summers are hot and humid; there sugar maple is confined to ravines and moist flatlands. In the east, from Maryland southward, it is limited to the Appalachians. In the west, Tennessee represents the southern limit of its range. Collection of sap for sugar is also not possible in the southern part of sugar maple’s range as winter temperatures do not become cold enough.
The minimum seed-bearing age of sugar maple is about 30 years. The tree is long-lived, typically 200 years and occasionally as much as 300.
The sugar maple is one of the most important Canadian trees, being, with the black maple, the major source of sap for making maple syrup. Other maple species can be used as a sap source for maple syrup, but some have lower sugar contents and/or produce more cloudy syrup than these two. In maple syrup production from Acer saccharum, the sap is extracted from the trees using a tap placed into a hole drilled through the phloem, just inside the bark. The collected sap is then boiled. As the sap boils, the water is evaporated off and the syrup left behind. Forty gallons of maple sap are required to be boiled to produce only 1 gallon of pure syrup. Syrup production is dependent on the tree growing in cooler climates; as such, sugar maples in the southern part of its range produce little sap