Maple tree tap opportunities

Tapping maple trees at Ryerson Woods (Photo courtesy of Lake county Forest Preserves)
Tapping maple trees at Ryerson Woods (Photo courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserves)

In the Chicago area, it’s time to tap into the sap that is moving in maple trees.

The Lake County Forest Preserves usually takes folks on guided maple syrup walks, talks and tasting trips. But with the pandemic changing 2020-21 in-person trips, the forest preserves’ staff has come up with a virtual and a self-guided program. They are free but require registration.

Virtual tree tapping  is Feb. 28 from 2 to 3 p.m. Visit virtual education offerings and register online at LCFPD.org/calendar.

The Self-guided program- Maple Syruping runs from March 01 through March 31, 2021. Visit Self-Guided Program-Maple Syruping

” Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s programming will be different. “COVID-19 has made us rethink how we can safely offer our maple syrup programs,” said Director of Education Nan Buckardt.

“Though there will be no in-person programming this spring, people will be able to go on self-guided Maple Syrup Hikes through Ryerson, as well as take part in a variety of related virtual programs,” said Buckardt.

Environmental Educator Jen Berlinghof noted, “There are plenty of opportunities to learn about the sweet science of tree physiology and maple sugaring through virtual experiences.”

Berlinghof suggested checking the free monthly “Virtual Nature Club” for the 3:30 p. m. March 3, program that offers first through fourth graders a chance to learn about trees and how the sap collected is used to make sweet syrup.

Ask an Educator Live” will be on Zoom and Facebook March 10 at 7 p.m. where people can bring questions about backyard syruping.

“This should be a popular program. We’ll be showing participants how they can do this historic tradition themselves,” said Berlinghof, who has been running the maple syrup programming for 17 years.

“If your family is ready to hit the trails, we are providing self-guided Maple Syrup Hikes for the entire month of March. Through informational signs, you’ll learn the science behind how trees make sap and how we turn that sap into real maple syrup as you walk along the designated trail at your own pace,” Berlinghof said.

“The temperature dictates what you will see along the trail. The timing for tapping maple trees comes down to temperature–above freezing during the day but still below freezing at night–plus precipitation and the hours of sunlight in a day,” Berlinghof said.

“Changing temperature is what causes the sap to surge upward from the roots toward the branches, where it helps the leaves grow and the buds bloom. Then in the summer, the leaves will produce more sap, which will settle back down in the roots come winter.”

Jodie Jacobs