"Will it affect the maples in Connecticut? Yes,'' Philbrick said this month, speaking about the science of maple trees and maple syrup-making in WestConn's Science at Night series.
"When will it happen? I don't know.''
Maples are unique in being able to produce enough sap to boil down to syrup -- it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup -- and in having enough sweetness to make something that tastes so good.
"Do all trees have sap?'' Philbrick said. "Technically, yes. But do they have enough to make something out of it? Maybe not.''
In Connecticut, sugar maples are at the southern end of their range.
While the sugar maples are found in isolated stands elsewhere in the East, they're the dominant trees of the maple-birch-beech forests that cover New England and New York state.
Philbrick said climate models show that in a warmer environment the forests of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic states -- oak, hickory, poplar and gum trees -- could move north into New England.
In turn, the maples will retreat to where they're comfortable -- in the colder climate of northern New England and Canada.
It's not that there will no longer be maple syrup.
It's just that it won't be made here.
It will have to be shipped south for Connecticut pancakes.
Secondly, Philbrick said, if springs in New England get warmer, there may be fewer of those 40-degree days and 20-degree nights to count on.
Like the warm spring of 2010, the weather may start a sap run in March, then move on to April-like weather.
At the same time, Philbrick acknowledged, it's not as if the maples in the state will move en masse and quickly.
"How long does a maple tree live? One hundred years, 200 years,'' he said.
But if we do lose them, it will matter.
The native Americans in New England were making maple sugar before the Europeans arrived.
People have been walking in the winter woods, tasting the sweetness they have to offer, for a very long time.
"Who can't like maple syrup?'' Philbrick said. "It's deeply ingrained in our culture.''
Contact Robert Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 203-731-3345.
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