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Nebraska’s sugar maple capital

Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 6:20 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If you live in Table Rock, then you are probably familiar with the sugar maples. Several of these trees can be found around town.

“I think there were several of us who realized they were an exceptionally beautiful tree in the fall,” 90-year-old Minnie Binder said. Minnie is one resident who helped spread the sugar maples around over the years. She would give away seedlings from her property. Her neighbor Addie Wilcox also helped share seedlings. The community is a haven for the sugar maples.

“Table Rock is the sugar maple capital of Nebraska,” Bob Henrickson with the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum said. “There’s really no other community in the state that has this many sugar maples planted throughout the community.” Tree enthusiasts are still considering just how the trees got here. “Our speculation is people were coming from the east, and either brought seeds with them or brought seedlings, or they dug them up from the nearest native location which would be northwest Missouri,” Henrickson said.

“In the native woods, you’ll find it in the state of Minnesota, Wisconsin, all the way east to Maine,” Henrickson said. “Then it heads south along the Appalachian Mountains to Tennessee, West Virginia, and then heads west toward Missouri. This basically stops around the St. Jo area, so it’s not native to Nebraska, but it’s just a few counties away.”

The sugar maples actually do pretty well in Nebraska weather. “Being a hard maple, it’s more resistant to our weather,” Henrickson said. “Soft maple trees, like the silver maple, are much faster growing than the sugar maple. That faster growth rate tends to make them easier to break up in storms, but the sugar maple is a very ice storm resistant tree.”

These trees are mostly known for their fall color. “No other tree can really bring you that kaleidoscope, that orange and red color that you see,” Henrickson said. “Often times, the tree can have three different colors on the same tree of yellows, oranges, and reds.”

Bob Henrickson with the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum has been following the story of the sugar maples for years. “I’ve been in Table Rock, coming back since 2001 to collect seed from these sugar maples,” he said. “Those few years I have received seed, I distribute those seedlings to nurseries in the state.” The hope is this will help more people find sugar maples at local nurseries. Some would also like to see Table Rock as part of the statewide arboretum. “With the statewide arboretum, we are unique in the nation in that we have statewide arboretum sites throughout the state from Falls City to Chadron,” Henrickson said. “Table Rock currently is not an affiliated arboretum site. We hope they can join us as a partner based on the beauty of the sugar maples here in town.”

It’s easy to see the beauty on the streets of Table Rock. Minnie Binder knows about that, because the sugar maple is her favorite tree. “In the fall, sometimes they are fabulous, especially when the sun shines on them,” Binder said. “In the early morning or late evening, they just light up. And that’s just really fun to watch. I like flowers, but flowers only last a short few days, and these trees, you can enjoy them for a month.” Hopefully, people will enjoy these trees in Table Rock for years to come.

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