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Maple - Beech - Yellow Birch

| Description | Products and Uses | Site Conditions |
| Regeneration | Immediate Treatments | Pests and Diseases |

Description

Range of sugar maple
This collection of forest types, often called northern hardwoods, includes several mixes: sugar maple, sugar maple-beech-yellow birch, sugar maple-basswood, beech-sugar maple, and red maple. The dominant species varies with the type, as named, but common associates, depending on the site and geographic range of species, include white ash, green ash, black ash, black cherry, northern red oak, white pine, balsam fir, American elm, hackberry, bitternut hickory, white spruce, ironwood, eastern hemlock, northern white-cedar, paper birch, aspen, and pin cherry. Beech and hemlock occur in eastern Wisconsin and Michigan (Figure 6-12).

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Products and Uses

This collection of forest types includes numerous tree species. Sawlogs, veneer logs, pulpwood, and firewood are the major wood products from them. Sugar maple trees are often tapped for sap that is boiled down to produce maple syrupMaple syrup is made from sugar maple sap. These forests provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, including deer, bear, squirrel, ruffed grouse, and woodcock.

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Sugar maple-basswood stand on a moist, nutrient-rich siteSite Conditions

Northern hardwoods grow on sands, loamy sands, sandy loams, loams, and silt loams, but they grow best on moist, moderately to well-drained, fertile, loamy soil. Beech favors drier sites while yellow birch favors moister sites. The poorest sites occur on soils that are infertile, dry, shallow, or swampy. Site index comparisons among hardwoods are shown in Appendix B-8.

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Regeneration

Northern hardwoods include species that are long-lived and shade tolerant that form self-perpetuating climax plant communities.

The major species produce abundant seeds, but sometimes at irregular intervals. Beech, elm, basswood, and red maple sprout prolifically from stumps. The stumps of young trees sprout more prolifically than those of older trees. Only the sprouts of basswood and sprouts from seedlings and saplings under 2 inches DBH on other species are desirable for reproduction.

Sugar maple, beech, hemlock, and balsam fir are very shade tolerant. Basswood, northern white-cedar and white spruce are tolerant. Yellow birch, white ash, red maple, red oak, bitternut hickory, and white pine are intermediate. Green ash and hackberry are intermediate to intolerant. Black ash, paper birch, aspen, and black cherry are intolerant of shade.

Selection, shelterwood, or clearcutting methods can be used successfully in these types of stands, depending on the species mix of the current stand, advance regeneration, site quality, and desired future species mix.

If high-quality, very shade tolerant species are desired, use single-tree selection or group selection methods. Harvest about every 15 years, leaving roughly 70 square feet of basal area. Do not leave less than 50 or more than 95 square feet of basal area in trees of more than 10 inches DBH. Alternatively, mark the stand for harvest as shown in Table 6-2. Cut mainly trees that have no potential for further economic growth or that interfere with the growth of better trees, then cut mature trees. This system produces an uneven-aged stand.

Table 6-2. Desirable stocking an acre for uneven-aged management of northern hardwoods.

DBH in Inches
Residual Number of Trees per Acre
Basal Area in Square Feet
5
21
2.9
6
15
2.9
7
12
3.2
8
9
3.1
9
8
3.5
Subtotal
65
16.0
10
7
3.8
11
6
4.0
12
5
3.9
13
5
4.6
14
5
5.3
Subtotal
28
22.0
15
4
4.9
16
4
5.6
17
3
4.7
18
3
5.3
19
3
5.9
Subtotal
17
26.0
20
2
4.4
21
2
4.8
22
2
5.3
23
1
2.9
24
1
3.1
Subtotal
8
20.0
Total 
118
84.0

SOURCE: Hutchinson, J. A. (ed.). Northern Hardwood Notes (Note 4.03). U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.

To achieve an even-aged stand dominated by sugar maple, use a two-cut shelterwood system. Harvest in winter, preferably when there is snow cover to protect advance regeneration, and leave 60 percent crown cover after the first harvest. Leave good quality dominant trees for a seed source. Remove intermediate and codominant trees, defective trees, and undesirable species. Make the second cut after advance regeneration is 2 to 4 feet high. If you prefer a greater variety of species, use a two-cut shelterwood system following these guidelines:

  • Eliminate all reproduction present before cutting.
  • Harvest in any season except summer.
  • Scarify the site during harvest.
  • Leave 70 to 80 percent crown cover.
  • Remove undesirable seed sources.
  • Make the second cut after advance regeneration is 3 to 4 feet high.

To encourage yellow birch, focus on cool, moist sites. Discriminate against sugar maple in the residual overstory when marking the stand for shelterwood harvest. In open sawlog stands, after leaf fall, but before logging, scarify at least 50 percent of the site to mix humus with mineral soil while destroying advance regeneration; then harvest. In dense stands where mechanical scarification is not practical and on wetter sites, harvest to leave about 70 percent crown cover, then use prescribed fire to remove the litter and destroy advance regeneration.

Sugar maple leaves. Planting seedlings is rarely necessary, but is appropriate for open fields or under a shelterwood stand to change the species composition. In open fields plant only in fertile, well-drained soil. Thoroughly disk before planting, plant tap-rooted species such as white ash and northern red oak, plant only when there is good soil moisture, and control weeds for one to three years after planting. Under shelterwoods, kill undesirable understory plants and plant in the most open areas immediately after site preparation.

Where aspen is mixed with more shade-tolerant northern hardwood species, decide whether to encourage aspen or the other species. If there is an overstory of aspen and an understory of hardwoods, you can favor the aspen by clearcutting the stand when aspen are marketable to stimulate aspen root suckering. Favor hardwoods by removing the aspen when the understory hardwoods are 1 to 3 inches DBH, taking great care to avoid damaging the hardwoods. If the aspen has little commercial value, consider killing it with herbicides and letting it stand.

If aspen and other hardwoods are of equal size, favor aspen by clearcutting the stand. To encourage hardwoods, thin or harvest the stand leaving 70 to 85 square feet of basal area an acre in trees 4.6 inches DBH and larger, discriminating against aspen, or follow the stocking chart for even-aged management of northern hardwoods (see Appendix C-5).

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Intermediate Treatments

When following the single-tree selection system in an uneven-aged stand, use Table 6-2 to determine the approximate basal area and number of trees to leave after each harvest. Remove poor quality trees and undesirable species during the harvest.

In an even-aged sapling stand, release yellow birch saplings between 10 and 20 years of age by removing competing trees with crowns within 5 feet of the birch. Thin basswood and red maple sprouts to two or three of the straightest, least-defective stems.

Periodically thin even-aged pole stands. There are different stocking charts depending on the percentage of different tree species in the stand. Appendix C-5 may be an appropriate stocking chart for many stands. As a general rule, do not reduce the basal area of trees 4.6 inches DBH or more to less than 60 square feet or leave more than 85 square feet. However, if basswood or hemlock are a significant part of the stand, the residual basal area can be increased.

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Pests and Diseases

Logging equipment may damage remaining trees. In the next harvest remove trees with wounds larger than 50 square inches. Canker diseases affect yellow birch and sugar maple. Frost cracks also degrade sugar maple in the northern part of its range. Organisms causing rot and stain enter trees through damaged roots, stems, and branches. To reduce volume and quality losses from these sources, train heavy equipment operators to avoid damaging trees, maintain healthy stands, remove infected stems, and keep rotations less than 120 years.

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