This section is from the book "A Few Suggestions On Tree Planting", by C. S. Sargent.
The Sugar Maple (Acer Saccharinum, Wang) nowhere becomes a finer tree than in the western portions of Massachusetts; and when we consider the value of its wood in the arts, and for fuel, the value of its sap when converted into sugar, its rapid growth,long life, immunity from the attacks of insects, and its beauty and fitness for street and ornamental planting, it must be acknowledged that no tree deserves more general cultivation in this State. The wood of the sugar-maple, which is hard, close-grained, and smooth is largely used in furniture-making, cooperage, and in making shoe-lasts, for which it is preferred to that of any other tree. Two million five hundred thousand pairs of lasts are consumed annually in Massachusetts alone; and if we can judge of the future of this business by its past history, it will, before many years, consume all the sugar-maple lumber the country can produce. For fuel, the wood of this tree is generally considered superior to that of any other, with the exception of the hickory. Mr. Bull estimates its value, however, at only CO, hickory being 100, and places before it, in heat-giving qualities, no less than twenty-two species of North American trees and shrubs.
The destruction of the sugar-maple has been so general in this State, that sugar making, which formerly held an important place in Massachusetts industry, has, during the last thirty years, diminished fully one half, and that, too, in the face of an enormously increased national production, and of prices which have considerably more than doubled during the last forty years.
There are, especially in the western part of the State, many unproductive pastures, now almost worthless, which would, if converted into sugar-orchards, yield in a few years a handsome income.
In regard to the age at which it is profitable to commence drawing the sap for sugar, authorities differ; but a tree twenty-five years old will yield, on the average, ten pounds of sugar, and will continue to be productive to this extent for fifty or sixty years longer. One hundred and sixty trees being allowed to the acre, the sugar crop, from an orchard of that size, would yield, at present prices, $273 annually; and it must be remembered that, owing to the season of the year at which sugar is made, no operation of the farm can be carried on with so small an outlay for labor. The trees, uninjured by the drawing off of the sap, would increase in value for a hundred years, and at any age find a ready sale either for fuel or for use in the arts. Its adaptability to all soils, except where stagnant water stands, the rapidity of its growth, its general thrift-iness and undoubted beauty at all seasons of the year, render the sugar-maple the most valuable of all the North American trees for street and roadside planting, and it should be more, generally used instead of the American elm, which has been planted for this purpose in Massachusetts almost to the exclusion of other trees, although rarely thriving in such dry, dusty situations.
As I have before remarked, the value of the white oak (Quercus alba, L.), for all purposes requiring durability, toughness, and hardness, is so great that it must always be in demand, no other North American wood equalling it in these qualities. And although I do not believe that its cultivation in Massachusetts can ever be as profitable as that of the ash or the hickory, it should always form a part of mixed plantations, and should be spared in thinning woodlands in preference to all other trees, on account of the slow growth of its early years and its value at maturity. The value of the white oak for fuel is very great, being, according to Bull, 81 to hickory's 100, the hickories and the swamp white oak alone surpassing it in this quality.
There are a few European trees which have now been sufficiently tested here to show that they are suited to the soil and climate of Massachusetts, and that the qualities for which they are held in high esteem in other countries would make their cultivation equally valuable here.