Northeastern Forest -- Sugar Maple Question

Ron Wenrich woodtick at
Wed Jan 7 23:37:40 EST 1998

ForestFair wrote:

> I'd like to hear from some Northeastern foresters about the possible cause(s)
> of darker sugar maple timber?  As our harvest progresses we're finding that the
> sugar maple is darker inside than the loggers expected, and the prices they'll
> be able to get for it will be somewhat lower than they'd hoped.
> My guess was minerals in the soil, although I have no idea exactly how that
> would produce darker wood.  A forester/friend who knows something of the
> history of the area suggested that soil compaction and intensive grazing by
> sheep in the 1800's is involved.
> ForestFair

I'm not real familiar with hard maple, but I do know that mineral is a problem in
most woods.  Mineral seems to be site specific; however, mineral will show up after
an injury and is confined to the injured area.  One of the problems with logging
damage on the residual stands.  Trees with spider heart will almost always be heavy
with mineral.  Spider heart is radial cracks through the log, eminating from the

Mineral is generally a dark streak in the lumber.  It can be very prominent or just
an occassional streak.  Heavy darkening will reduce the value of the lumber or
veneer, since it is difficult to match.  Some mineral can be masked with stain,
depending on the end user.  Casket companies in our area have no problem with
mineral darkened wood.  Mineral will remove a tree as being veneer quality.

Soil compaction may be a problem, but I'm not sure it is the cause.  I have seen
mineral on areas which do not have this problem.  Mineral in tulip poplar tends to
be blue, brown or black.  The blue, I've been told, is due to too much potassium in
the soil.  This suggests that it is more of a soil problem than a compaction
problem.  Genetics may also play a role.


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