Winter program all about trees

Published 5:25 pm Thursday, February 13, 2014

Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

BRISTOL, Ind. — Believe it or not, springtime is on its way. The snows will eventually melt, and tiny buds on trees will eventually become leaves.

Even before then, the sap will start to flow in those trees, and it will be maple-sugaring time in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan.

“In about a month, before the leaves come in, it will be time to tap trees,” said Krista Daniels, an interpretive naturalist with Elkhart County Parks. “It will be good to know which trees to tap.”

While sugar maples are the most commonly tapped trees for syrup production, Norway maples and box elders are among the other trees that can be used in this way. But how can you tell which trees to tap if there are no leaves on them yet?

“So many people rely on the leaves, but that’s actually the least reliable way to identify trees,” Daniels said. “There are many other, better ways.”

On Feb. 22, Elkhart County Parks will be presenting two programs that will teach Michiana residents how to identify trees in the winter and how to make their own maple syrup. The programs can be attended separately or in succession that day.

The first program, “Backyard Maple Syrup Making,” runs from 9:30 to 11 a.m. It will introduce participants to the art of making maple syrup at home.

The class covers all of the necessary information to get started, and maple syrup making kits will also be available for purchase at $15 each.

The cost to attend the class is $1, and participants are also invited to eat breakfast there for an additional $3 per person. Breakfast will include pancakes, maple syrup, sausage and drinks.

Later that same day, from 1 to 3 p.m., guest speaker Bill Minter will present “Winter Tree ID” at no charge to participants.

Minter is the Director of Land Management at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College.

“I have taken this course in the past, and I felt that it would be a good opportunity for visitors to our park,” Daniels said. “This class can help people identify the various trees that people use to make syrup.”

“He will teach participants how to identify trees through bark patterns, branching patterns, by the buds that have begun to form on the branches, or by the habitat in which the tree is located,” Daniels said.

The class will begin with a lecture with handouts that participants can take home to use later on.

“He has an indoor part, and then there’s an outdoor part where people can put into action what they’ve just learned,” Daniels said. “People should dress appropriately, but if it’s really cold or the snow is too deep in the areas where Bill wants to go to, he’ll adapt the outdoor part and shorten that up.”

The class is good for participants who wish to learn which trees can be tapped for syrup-making, but it has other applications as well. Homeowners can use the information to make plans for their yards.

“It’s a good class for local homeowners. Sometimes it’s good to know what kind of trees are growing in your yard,” Daniels said. “It helps in supplementing the landscaping and knowing what will grow well in certain areas.”

Participants must pre-register for the programs by calling Elkhart County Parks at (574) 535-6458. More information about the classes can also be found at They will be held at the Baldwin Schoolhouse in Bonneyville Mill County Park, located at 53373 County Road 131 outside of Bristol.