Feb 9, 2013 · 7:00 PM
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We're going to make spiles! These wonderful objects are basically just hollow tubes that conduct tree sap from the phloem down into your bucket.
The way I've seen it done is by taking a heated metal rod (1/4" - 1/2" diameter, at least a foot long ideally) and running it through the soft yellow pith of branches from small sumac trees. I have some I collected from around my parents' place back in Newtown, PA this past winter holiday. These are staghorn sumac, but I believe the smooth sumac more common to this area should work just fine, too. Then you whittle one end down a half an inch or an inch, something like that, and then carve out a small notch on the other end - for your bucket to rest on, once you've driven the spile into the trunk. Feel free to bring your own pocket knives, metal rods, sumac branches, whatnot, but I'll bring what I have!
Once we've got these made, then we can start tapping. Sugar maples, planetrees (sycamores), you name it! Many thanks to Jennifer for hosting this, and I hope to see you all there!
**UPDATE**: Apparently it is the xylem itself - not the phloem - that is responsible for this sweetness, for supplying this boost of energy to the budding parts of the plant, at a time of year when sugars are not really so much being produced through photosynthesis in the leaves. This makes total sense, it's simply contrary to the basic truism one learns about the biology of plants, which is awesome! Thanks, Fred!