Managing Maple Trees in a Mixed Woods

There's good advice here on managing a mixed hardwood stand for long-term value and forest health. June 14, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I have a 256 acre farm in central Missouri and about 245 acres of it is hardwood trees. I have mostly red and white oak, but a significant amount of hard maples. I also have some black walnut, locust, cherry, sycamore and hackberry. A few people have told me that I should kill every maple on the place. I saw a lot of my own lumber and use maple in my projects. People have told me to let the walnut, cherry and oak grow and kill everything. As far as I know hard maple is selling for a fairly good price. Should I really kill all the maples, or just the cull trees?

Forum Responses
(Forestry Forum)
From contributor W:
Take what the site gives you. If there are cull trees, remove them or inject with an herbicide. Over the long run, the best markets will be for walnut, cherry, maple and oak. There is no real demand for hackberry, and sycamore has a limited market. I would select for the big four and only leave the other species if there is a hole or no other suitable crop trees.

From Contributor Q:
I have never been to Missouri but here in the lake states sugar maple occupies a niche in the forest. SM is a shade tolerant tree which means it can thrive in the understory of the stand and as the less tolerant species like the oak get removed (logging, fire, insect-disease) the SM takes its place and over the years becomes a SM stand. Many hardwood sites have 1000's of SM seedling in them and would be hard to eliminate. In order to keep the maples to a minimum you will have to do more severe cuts like clear cuts or shelterwoods. If you keep thinning every 10-15 years you will promote the maple. I would never try to eradicate any species from a stand. But that is my opinion. Make sure that when you thin you take the worse trees first. Too many landowners don't get a foresters help at thinning time and some loggers could talk you into high grading the stand or diameter limit cuts. I hope that helps.

From Contributor C:
The key to managing a forest for lumber production is to select the trees in a given area that have the most value long term. Because tree type can vary even in a small area, what may have value in one acre may be different in the acre next to it. Poplar, hackberry and even locust to a certain extent have low value. So those would normally be thinned to make way for more valuable species such as oak, maple and cherry. However, poplar and other trees are needed to shade the ground in order for species such as oak, maple and cherry to get established. Those more valuable species do not start growing in an open field well. Poplar is almost always the first species to get established and they allow for other species to get going years later.

Hard maple has plenty of value and in fact is more valuable than oak by about a factor of two at my local supplier. Cherry and hard maple sell for about the same price at my local sawmills. So in terms of value I would say walnut, cherry and hard maple all rate high, oak and soft maple rate in the middle, poplar, hackberry and pine would be at the bottom of my list.

As you set up your land for lumber management you basically want to stand in an area and chose the trees in that small location that have the highest value and selectively clear the trees that have the lowest value. You never want to clear everything. That is very bad. You can take out 10-20% of the trees typically and not do too much harm. Repeat the process every five-ten years and eventually you get a nice mixed species forest. Take out the lowest value trees and also look for damaged trees and remove them too. An oak tree with a big hole in the side from a broken limb has nowhere near the value of a healthy soft maple. You would select the oak out and leave the soft maple even though the soft maple won't have as high a log value as an oak one would. If the oak was next to a poplar you would take out the poplar even though the oak may not have much value, because the oak is going to rot on the inside. You would leave it to leave some shade and allow it to see more oaks.

From Contributor Y:
We've got an invasion of red (soft) maple here in southwest MO, and have been advised to remove them with herbicide because of their low value. Low value, in turn, is due to the fact that there isn't enough of it for the mills cut in volume. But with the red oak decline I have to wonder whether there are some environmental changes taking place that favor the maple. If that happens, mills will start buying it in volume, and the value will improve. Bottom line is that I'm going with diversity in my patch of woods, including hickory and maple.

From Contributor W
Some good points for sure. You have to think 30 years ahead in forestry.

From Contributor Y:
Actually, I'm more interested in 300 years ahead. You just have to trust that the next landowners will agree!