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Winter warmth limits maple syrup supply at Cincinnati Nature Center

Syrup Used For Making Samples at the Cincinnati Nature Center

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - You may know that the Cincinnati Nature Center harvests maple syrup. You may have been on one of their syrup hikes. What you may not know is that temperatures can impact the amount of syrup collected.

Jason Neumann, the Public Programs Manager at Cincinnati Nature Center, said "This year hasn't been all that great. If the up and down temperatures it what makes sap flow, but as we've all seen it got warm early on and then cooled off some, up and down some."

"Ideal weather conditions are 25° at nighttime, and 40° to 45° in the daytime. It has to go below freezing at nighttime and above freezing during the daytime to get it pumping up and down," said Charles Pratt, a maple syrup evaporator operator.

Warmer than average temperatures this winter reduced the amount of sap coming from the maple trees. Changes in atmospheric pressure can also force cells inside maple trees to expand and force sap out of the tree.

Neumann explained, "If the pressure is lower, it makes more sap come out of our trees. It comes out more so with the freeze and thaw, but there are a few other things at work there."

Meteorology can have an impact on how much syrup is collected from the trees, but the science doesn't stop there. Say hello to the evaporator!

"This is 2% sugar and 98% water. That's why you have to evaporate it off. The more that evaporates off, the thicker the sugar is," explained Pratt.

Through additional evaporative channels fueled by the burning of wood, the liquid turns to 50% syrup and 50% water.

"Then we take it into the house in the kitchen where you have better control of the heat and then it's cooked down to 67%," said Pratt.

Temperatures well above freezing stops the flow of sap out of the trees, but the weather is always right for learning the science.

Neumann said, "This is about education, but if our guesses can take home a bottle of syrup to extend their experience, that's even better. It's not a primary goal, but it's a plus."

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