Maple syrup, the sweet delicacy known best for being smothered on top of our favorite breakfast treats: pancakes, waffles, and French toast. Its infamous origin, the sugar maple tree is one of America’s most-loved trees with it ringing in as the highest claimed state tree compared to all other single species. Its beautiful autumn colors make any view brighter, and its sweet sap brings joy to kids of all ages.

Aspen and mountain maple trees in fall color. Teton Range, ID.

© Henry h. Holdsworth/

How it’s Made

Acer saccharum, better known as the sugar maple tree, is the magnificent tree that we have to thank for providing us with maple syrup each year. The sugar maple tree contains a slightly sweet sap which is 98% water and 2% sugar. Every year, harvesters must wait for the temperatures to rise slowly after the winter season. The sap in the sugar maple tree starts to flow generally around February to March when the temperatures rise above freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit). Depending on the region and climate, these conditions vary. Some places can even harvest maple sap in the autumn months!

Once the sugar maple trees are ready, harvesters will drill a small hole in the side of the tree and insert a spout. On each spout, they will hang a bucket or some sort of container to collect the sap. Sap will slowly begin to fill the container as pressure builds in the tree from the alternating freezing and thawing temperatures. To make a lot of maple syrup, it’s important to gather as much sap as possible – it takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.

Once the sap is collected, it needs to be heated to 66% sugar content. At this point, it is officially considered maple syrup. For best results, the heated maple syrup should be strained to remove any debris. The maple syrup harvesting season typically wraps up when the warmer days of late spring cause the leaf buds to unfold but this doesn’t happen for 4 to 6 weeks.

Sugar maple fruit (samara) pictured up close

© Kari Schnellmann

What WWF is Doing to Support

While World Wildlife Fund doesn’t work directly with the maple syrup harvesting industry, our work aligns with promoting healthy forests and responsible production practices that significantly impact the forest-to-pancake breakfast pipeline.

Products that carry the FSC logo have been certified to Forest Stewardship Council® standards as having been sourced according to specific standards of environmental and social responsibility. When you see the logo, you can be confident that the product came from a well-managed forest and that the workers who harvested it were paid a living wage. The FSC logo promotes vital efforts to stop illegal logging, prevent the conversion of forest land for agriculture, and limit the soil erosion that damages waterways when too many trees are removed.

FSC logo On timber from a certified forest United Kingdom Project

© Edward Parker / WWF

Any wood product like cutting boards, picture frames, cards, and more may have the FSC logo. What you may not have noticed before is that maple syrup bottles can also feature this FSC logo, ensuring that your sweet delicacy came from a forest with responsible practices. By opting for FSC products, you’ll be helping to protect forests, woodland wildlife, and the future of maple syrup!

Travel to the Land of Syrup

If you want to taste the delicacy straight from its roots, you can travel with Natural Habitat Adventures on the Whales & Nature Trails of Quebec trip. On this voyage, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Charlevoix region, a noted producer of artisan and organic food, including acclaimed local cheeses, honey, craft cider and beer, French pastries and bread from heirloom grains, foraged mushrooms, and maple syrup on par with Vermont’s. This spot is recognized by UNESCO as the Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve and offers a route connecting a host of small-scale farmers and artisans.