Maple Tree transplanted from the woods

wilsocnOctober 19, 2011

A small plot of woods behind my house is littered with Maple saplings and I want to dig one up soon and transplant it in my yard. I was wondering though about the apparent 'legginess' of the saplings. They have all been growing in a place that receives little direct sunlight and they don't generally start branching until 4-5 ft up the trunk. I noticed the Maples that are sold at Lowe's are a lot more full.

I guess I could just take a really small one but I like the idea of having a larger tree the first season it is in my yard. My question is, will the tree start to correct itself when it's in its new home or will it forever have a leggy appearance to it?

Thanks everyone

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Keep in mind that the smaller trees will probably outgrow the larger trees (after being transplanted), so that, in a few years, the smaller trees may end up being as large as the initially-larger trees would be. Sometimes instant gratification and optimal mid-term/long-term performance may, at least to some degree, be in conflict. Also, the work required to move one of the larger trees may be considerably more than that needed to move one of the smaller ones. All this is not to say that you shouldn't go for a larger one, but I'm just trying to give you the other side of the equation.

I wouldn't worry too much about the legginess of the trees you see as far as aesthetics go. They might fill out considerably if given a more full-sun location. Do keep structural considerations in mind though.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 7:30PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i would target the 3 to 4 foot size for transplant..

i would do it ASAP .... according to PROPER planting rules... brandon ought to have a link for that

and i would not worry about its shape or form at this time ... other than choosing a straight one .... i would not worry about a slight lean for a better tree.. as you can plant it straight ....

trees need FULL SUN.. these do NOT have full sun ... ergo ipso facto .. make no assumptions about its future in FULL SUN ...

they are obviously weeds .... you might be better off in paying a few bucks for a named variety ... but whatever .... if they grow as weeds in the 'hood' ... i wouldnt waste to much time worrying about them


i would not recommend as large as the one in the pic.. but this should give you an idea of what you are shooting for while digging ...

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 8:25AM
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OK I think I have the perfect one picked out. It is growing in a stand of cedars and is about 3 feet tall. It is nice and straight and is actually fuller than most of the others that are growing amongst the other maple trees. Kinda strange considering this tree is bound to receive a lot less light than all the others. Best of all I suppose is that there are not other plants or trees growing next to it.

Should I wait until its leaves have fallen or is it ok to go ahead and start digging? This one is still covered in healthy looking green leaves.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 1:59PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

If this sapling hasn't enjoyed much full, direct sun, be prepared for some scald. Frankly, that would be the first thing I would worry about. Do you have any idea what kind of maple it is?

You should wait until your little tree has dropped all of its leaves.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 2:22PM
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I do well to even identify it as a maple tree. I will get out today and take a couple of photos and post them and hopefully someone can id it for me.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 2:49PM
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Me again... :P

I just read this on another forum and I have never heard of this before.

"If moving a Maple from a wooded setting to a yard setting you will need to paint the tree trunk white with a latex white paint. Immature Maples have very smooth thin bark. and when the tree is exposed to winter sunlight it will cause the trunk to split. ( water inside the tree expands causing cambial damage ) the paint will cause the light to reflect."

I guess this is the scald you were talking about, rhizo? Instead of painting it white, could I slip over a piece of white pvc or other reflective plastic tubing until spring arrives?

I'd be interested to hear of others' experience with this.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 2:59PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I have used a loose plastic sheathing for some of my trees.
You want air circulation in there, and not too tight.

Brandon's right that small/medium trees will transplant more readily and will no doubt
catch up quickly to the larger saplings. Rhizo's also right about waiting for the tree
to drop its leaves.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 4:34PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

You can use tree tubes (loose fitting and sometimes with holes for air flow), but I'd avoid PVC piping or plastic wraps. One cheap, easy option is to paint with a mixture of 50% white/light-colored latex paint & 50% water. You only need to paint the main trunk. You won't have to worry about pests/rodents getting in between the covering and the tree, you won't have to worry about the lack of air flow and temperature issues sometimes present with tubes, and you won't have to worry about when/how to remove the tubes.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 5:04PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

we do NOT paint trees ...

where are you .. once the leaves turn color.. anywhere in the area.. go ahead and do it ... all trees will basically be dormant by then ...


    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 5:28PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"we do NOT paint trees"

Maybe you should. Applying a latex paint, cut 50% with water, will NOT harm the tree in ANY way and is widely used in the orchard business. It may not look pretty, but it works well.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 5:35PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

There is another thread from a poor gentleman in Arkansas I believe who lost two large tree farm maple transplants. Small has to have a higher percentage of success.

I believe you are on the right track in picking one with the characteristics u want. Red Maples are pretty variable from seed. To me most sugars and silver maples look the same. If red pay attention to its fall color. The named varieties are more consistent.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 6:11PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

when i said we.. i meant as in God and i ...

i would rather pave over paradise.. and poke out my eyes.. than look at a painted tree ...

if you have some old screens... just put in 2 stakes.. and tie it to them..

burlap with 2 stakes...

ANYTHING!!! --->>> just dont paint the freakin tree ...

whatever.. they are weed maples.. growing in massive numbers in your area.. do you really think they are going to need to be babied... chain it.. drag it out with the car.. run it over twice.. scoop out a hole by spinning the tires .. insert tree ....position car to spin new hole to backfill .. and floor it to the bar ...

if you want to avoid it in its entirety.. do it as soon as the ground thaws in spring ...

crimminey.. its a transplanted weed ...


ps: if its a norway.. you will grow to regret it ...

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 7:19PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

ken...I think that you should go to the corner and stand there for thirty minutes.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 10:17PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

He won't have time tonight. He's got to get to bed, so he can get up early tomorrow. He's gotta paint as many of his trees as possible tomorrow...not because they need it...but just because it would look so purdy.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 11:11PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

check out the link to see how that person protects his trees ...

it shows some of the options other than paint ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 8:54AM
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OK here are three pictures of the tree for identification purposes. I tried to get a decent shot of the bark, a leaf and the whole tree. Thanks in advance for the id!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 4:30PM
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Looks like a sugar maple to me. Should make a great yard tree. It will fill in once planted, don't worry about legginess now.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 4:55PM
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Thanks, j0nd03. Would it be ok to go ahead and transplant given that the majority of the maples in the area are already half bare? Im just new to transplanting and really cold nights dipping below 32 are approaching pretty quickly.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 5:26PM
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I would still wait until it at least is in full fall color if not leafless. Probably wouldn't hurt to dig it now if you can't wait for whatever reason(s). No need to get in a rush otherwise.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 7:13PM
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terrene(5b MA)

How exciting! A baby sugar maple! Acer saccharum is maybe my favorite tree. I would wait until those babies get their fall color and pick a pretty one. Not sure if that means it will always color well though. Also get one with a good robust root system.

Thank god it's not a Norway maple.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 12:04AM
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I've had great success transplanting maples out of a woodlot. Always tagged the trees in the fall looking for the best color, etc and then go back in March and dig them out and plant wherever I wanted them. Key is to pick a tree which the root mass will be manageable. One way to distinguish Norway's from other maples is to remove a leaf from the stem or branch and look for white sap to flow out of the end of the leaf stem. Sap flow = Norway Maple.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 10:25PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

IIRC, as long as soil temps stay above 40F, the roots will continue to grow. That's the key to fall transplanting, not necessarily air temperatures (though of course they are a big influence on soil temps).

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 12:01AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

just do it .... and quit worrying ...


    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 9:01AM
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Sugar maple and Norway maple leaves look very similar. To be sure that you are planting the more desirable sugar maple, why don't you try ripping one of your leaves. Norway maples (a pest tree) will have milky white sap while the native sugar maples will have clear sap. If it's a Norway, you might want to reconsider planting it since in addition to being an invasive species in many states, it is quite difficult to grow a garden or even grass under it. They tend to not have much if any fall color, where the sugar maple will look stunning in the fall.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 7:36PM
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