The Native Plant Society of Texas-Boerne Chapter’s mission is to promote understanding, preservation and enjoyment of the native flora of Texas. Thanks to the Cibolo Preserve’s generous support, more Bigtooth Maples will be displaying their beauty in Boerne. For the next ten years, a limited supply of maples will be available at no charge for adoption by qualified Boerne businesses, organizations and residents. Applications must be submitted by October 1 each year. The Bigtooth Maple Tree Adoption flyer is available for distribution to family and friends as a reminder of the event. Workshops, care instructions and mentors will be provided in order to help ensure the trees’ survival and the success of this program. To see this brilliant fall color in our lifetime, everyone is encouraged to plant these native maples throughout Boerne.
We are reintroducing a natural treasure to the City of Boerne to enhance the local landscape and establish Boerne as a prime destination for viewing fall foliage.
Native to Boerne and the Edwards Plateau
The number of Bigtooth Maples in Kendall County is declining due to development and deer overpopulation. Bigtooth Maple is valued for its drought tolerance and upright growth, making it ideal for street planting or rocky landscapes. This hardwood tree, once established, does very well as a landscape plant in our area. They are virtually disease and pest resistant. Cages will protect trees from browsing deer. Improper trimming and poor drainage can also harm the tree. Mulch and supplemental watering the first couple of years will help establish a good root system. The NPSOT-Boerne Chapter will provide mentors and monitor to help increase the survivability of these trees. Maples should be planted in the fall, ideally in December, when they are dormant. It is a brilliant gift.
Lost Maples found in Boerne
Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandidentatum) is native to interior western U.S., occurring in scattered populations from Idaho to northern Mexico, from Arizona to central Texas, and found growing naturally in Boerne. These spectacular maples are called “Lost” because these isolated populations are separated from each other by hundreds of miles. They once covered this area after the last Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago and are closely related to the eastern Sugar Maples. Bigtooth Maples link us to the original wild woods that once colored this area, and brings joy to those who appreciate the rhythm of nature.
Bigtooth Maple has other vernacular names: Lost Maple, Sabinal Maple, Western Sugar Maple, Uvalde Big Tooth Maple, Canyon Maple, Southwestern Big Tooth Maple, Plateau Big Tooth Maple, Limerock Maple. A small to medium-sized deciduous tree grows to 35-50 feet tall. The bark is dark brown to gray, with narrow fissures and flat ridges creating plate-like scales. It is thin and easily damaged and needs to be protected from weed trimmers, deer, and livestock until bark becomes rough. Inconspicuous flowering occurs during spring with leaf emergence. The fruit is a paired samara (two winged seeds joined at the base), green to reddish-pink in color, maturing brown in late summer or early fall. The leaves are opposite, simple, 2-4 inches long and broad, with three to five deep, bluntly-pointed lobes, three large lobes and two small ones (not always present) at the leaf base; the three major lobes each have 3-5 small subsidiary lobules. Usually after weather turns cool or after a cold snap, the leaves turn brilliant colors of golden yellow, orange, scarlet red or warm maroon, Bigtooth Maples commonly grow in limestone soils but can adapt to a wide range of well-drained soils. This tree is a must for the local landscape.
Care of your maple tree
For a PDF copy of the following care instructions, click here. For more information on how to care for your maple tree, please read “To Kill A Maple Tree”.
Consider Before Planting:
- Safety – “Call Before You Dig” at 811 is a free service and required by law to ensure planting site does not affect utility cables and pipes.
- Season – September through early April is the best time to plant, with December being ideal as tree becomes dormant. Trees planted in the late fall or very early spring can get a head start on establishing their root system and better support their top growth before the grueling summer comes. High temperatures can injure young transplanted trees with their small feeder roots. The roots will continue to grow during the dormant period.
- Sunlight – plant in full sun to part shade, preferably with protection from strong afternoon sun.
- Location – planting in well drained soil is crucial to the health of tree. Bigtooth maples adapt well to most planting sites and all soil types in the Hill Country. This includes thin, alkaline rocky soils as long as there is good drainage. Test planting site by pouring water into planting hole and watch to see if water drains within 4 hours. Planting on a slope works best because water runs off and away from tree. Heavy clay soils in low lying areas with poor drainage can smother the roots.
- Overhead power lines – avoid planting tree under utility lines. This will reduce the need to trim tree. Pruning less is best; newly planted trees need all the leaves they can get to feed roots.
- Spacing – plant 15-20 feet away from other structures making sure the tree has room to grow. Its mature size is 30-45 feet tall. This tree is ideal for street planting because of its upright growth.
- Deer Protection – plant in an enclosed area or cage with wire fence.
Things to Do When Planting:
- Planting width – needs to be two to five times wider than the root ball, but no deeper. Wider holes encourage rapid root growth. When using a shovel to dig a hole, be sure that soil is loosened or scored all around the walls of the hole so that glazing does not occur. Glazing prevents roots and water from penetrating into the surrounding soil.
- Planting depth – needs to be no deeper than that root ball. Determine the proper planting depth by measuring the distance from the bottom of the root ball to 2″ just below the root collar. It is better for the root ball to be 1″ – 2″ above the level of the surrounding ground than any measurement below. The worst mistake is to dig a very deep hole, refill it with soft topsoil before placing the tree in hole. In time, the soil will compact and the tree will sink below grade; water will then accumulate around the trunk of tree, bark will rot and the tree will die.
- Protect – by removing all the tags, ribbons, and grow pot/grow-bag. If material is left on, it can girdle the tree. To avoid root damage, don’t drag or lift the tree by the trunk. Place tree next to hole. If the tree is in a pot, lay the pot on its side and gently roll it to loosen the plant from the pot. If the tree is in a grow-bag, cut the bottom of the grow bag first using a sharp knife/scissors and remove the bottom of grow bag as you gently guide the tree into the planting hole, careful to always protect the root ball by keeping it intact. Once the tree is upright and placed correctly, the remaining side of the grow-bag can be cut and removed. If tree appears root bound, gently loosen exterior roots, but DO NOT break the soil from the roots.
- Placement – root ball should sit on soil that is compact. Carefully remove any loose soil from the top of the root ball and be sure root collar is exposed. Check to see that the root ball is either level with or 1″ to 2″ above finished grade.
- Refill hole – use the original soil to backfill hole around root ball but not on top of the root ball. Adding anything, like organic matter to the soil in the hole can be counter productive because any organic matter that is not completely decayed will rob the plant of nitrogen and stunt its growth. Chemical fertilizer can burn the tiny feeder roots. Mild root growth stimulators are acceptable if used as directed but are not necessary.
- Do not tamp – compacting soil to remove air pockets can damage roots. Watering is preferable.
- Water thoroughly to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets around root ball. Repeat deep watering in a couple of days.
Things to Do After Planting:
- Mulch – apply 2″ – 4″ of mulch or a thin 1″ – 2″ layer of compost over and beyond the root zone. DO NOT ALLOW MULCH OR COMPOST TO TOUCH TREE TRUNK. Gently pull mulch 3″ – 6″ away from base of tree to allow sufficient oxygen exchange.
- Deep water – the tree every 7-10 days through spring, summer and fall of the first year. Reduce water during fall and winter. In a “normal” year, no watering may be necessary in fall and winter, but during a dry period, monthly watering even in winter is desirable. If ½” to 1″ of rain has fallen, then wait about 2 weeks to water again. DO NOT OVER WATER! Watering the root ball and surrounding soil is crucial during the first two years in order for the tree to establish a deep root system. It is best to let the hose drip slowly at the base of the plant for half a day, or overnight. After two years this tree should be drought tolerant and survive on its own. For areas you cannot reach with the hose, use a five-gallon bucket with a couple of small (1/16″ or 1/32″) holes drilled in the bottom of it. This allows five gallons of water to be dripped very slowly to the exact place desired with no runoff.
- Add deer protection – construct a wire cage to prevent deer browsing foliage or rubbing their horns against tree trunk. A 12-foot-long, 4-foot-high, 2″x4″, 14-guage, welded wire cage is recommended. Use garden stakes to secure cage to ground. After tree is above browse line, a smaller cage (chimney) can be fitted loosely around trunk. Remove cage only when deer avoid rubbing it.
- Protect bark – from weed-trimmer damage and lawnmower. The bark of maple trees is very thin and damages more easily than many other trees. Weeding by hand is necessary around base of tree. Grasses and other plants compete with maples, so keeping all vegetation away from the base and beyond the drip line will increase the growth rate of the maple tree.
- Prune only if necessary and less is better. Newly planted trees need all the leaves they can get to feed and establish a good root system. Remove no more than 30% and only dead, broken, diseased or rubbing branches.
- Fertilize in mid-March – applying below drip line using a natural light organic fertilizer to the feeder roots, located under the outer edges of the branches. DO NOT APPLY NEAR THE TREE TRUNK! For newly planted tree, you know exactly where the feeder roots are – they are at the edge of the old root ball. To coax feeder roots to grow outward, apply organic fertilizer a few inches outside of the root zone. Natural/organic fertilizers are complete fertilizers, supplying not only nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) but also micro nutrients to the plant. Apply on top of mulch and over and slightly beyond the root zone. Do NOT apply synthetic/chemical fertilizer as this can burn tender roots. There is no danger of burning tree roots when an organic fertilizer is applied. The only deficiency that our soils have is nitrogen which is required to stimulate growth. Good fertilizers are those with a 3-2-2 ratio such as “Texas Tee”. Do NOT use a balanced fertilizer (15-15-15) because it adds too much phosphorus which is already adequate in our soil.
Application and Guidelines
To download a tree adoption application form, click here (MS Word) or here (PDF). To download guidelines for the Maples for Boerne project, click here (MS Word) or here (PDF).
Point of Contact
The NPSOT-Boerne Chapter meets the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 pm, September-June at the Cibolo Nature Center Auditorium. Meetings are free and open to the public. Join us today! For more information about the Maples for Boerne project, contact:
Native Plant Society of Texas-Boerne Chapter
216 Oak Knoll Circle Boerne, Texas 78006