SFA Gardens director discovers rare maples thrive in East Texas, other parts of the state

Dr. David Creech, Director of SFA Gardens, began the research project on the acer saccharum sub-species skutchii in 1994. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Dr. David Creech, Director of SFA Gardens, began the research project on the acer saccharum sub-species skutchii in 1994. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Aaron Wagner and his 10 year old son Jack spend spring break together preparing 200 trees at SFA for transport to Ft. Worth and Houston. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Aaron Wagner and his 10 year old son Jack spend spring break together preparing 200 trees at SFA for transport to Ft. Worth and Houston. (Source: KTRE Staff)
The Mexico Mountain Sugar Maples are thriving in places where other species of maples don't grow, but they are endangered in their native country. (Source: KTRE Staff)
The Mexico Mountain Sugar Maples are thriving in places where other species of maples don't grow, but they are endangered in their native country. (Source: KTRE Staff)

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The Mexico Mountain Sugar Maple Tree is on the endangered list in its country of origin due to urbanization and farming. However, here in East Texas, the trees thrive in soil near Stephen F. Austin State University.

This week, 200 trees will be transplanted from here to other parts of the state.

A large, hydraulic tree spade dug below a Mexico Mountain Sugar Maple. The fully mature maples reach 30 feet high. They began life as seedlings planted by Dr. David Creech, the director of SFA Gardens, in 2011. Now 200 of them are ready to move out to landscapers' pallets

"About half of them are gonna go to Ft. Worth, and the rest of them are going to go down to a park in Houston," Creech said.

SFA is selling these trees to environmental designs, just one company in the industry looking for climate change friendly plants.

"Sugar maples are very drought-tolerant, alkaline, fast growing, and they start making red, oranges, and yellows in the fall," Creech said.

The transplants are expected to do well based on Creech's prior generosity with seedlings.

"Kinda by accident I gave a bunch of them away," Creech said. "They ended up in San Antonio, Austin, Boerne, Fredericksburg."

They thrived in places where maples don't generally grow.

Aaron Wagner and his crew dig up the trees, place each one in a wire basket, and wrap the roots with burlap.

"The machine encapsulates the root ball and slides individually each blade down and creates a cone and keeps those roots cut nice and clean," Wagner said.

Ten-year-old Jack Wagner keeps things in line.

"I kinda just tell them which way to go, and I line them up to the hole," Jack said.

When he was asked if it was kind of neat to give his dad orders, Jack grinned and nodded.

The majority of these trees will have new homes in the coming weeks, but 40 will remain right here in East Texas. However, they will be dug up and put right back into the ground.

"And the reason for that is I want to be able to compare them in Zone 7, Ft. Worth, Zone 8 Nacogdoches and close to Zone 9 down in Houston," Creech said.

Creech said it's kind of like saying goodbye to children. He hates to see them go but is anxious to see them thrive.

Sugar maples are bought frequently, but the Mexico Mountain Sugar Maple remains relatively unknown.
 
Creech's research is likely to change that. Botanical gardens as far away as Chicago and New York are watching for results.

Click here for a link to Creech's latest research findings.

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