Tree Sap The Same as Maple Syrup? vs Tree Resin & Amber (Edible vs Not)

Man looks up as tree sap falls from a branch and wonders if there is a tree sap guide that includes pine sap, maple sap and tree resin, and asks can you eat tree sap, what is tree sap and how much sap to make maple syrup?

Tree sap may not be the first thing that comes to mind when listing the valuable parts of a tree.

In addition to fruits and nuts, the wood for construction and other projects ranks high. But, many farmers plant trees exclusively for tree sap and syrup production.

Maple is commonly known for its sweet flavor, but only some know how the sap converts to syrup. Other trees also produce sap, resins, and even amber (eventually), but the difference is that although all can be useful, not all of them are edible.

This complete guide explains tree sap, resins and other often overlooked benefits and useful products that come from the bark of trees.

What Is Tree Sap and What Is in It?

When hiking in the woods or trying to climb trees, you notice that your hands keep getting sticky when you touch the bark of trees.

Tree sap and tree resin graphics showing tree sap from maple tree and by-product maple syrup; tree sap from pine tree and by-products terpentine and rosin which are used in making oil, soap, glue, and varnish; and tree sap from cedar tree and by-product chewing gum.

This gooey, sticky, substance from the tree is called tree sap.

It is from two substances that lump together, the xylem and phloem, vital plant parts. The xylem helps transfer water and mineral salts through the tree from the roots to the top branches.

These xylem channels die off annually and are replaced with new ones, which form the magnificent rings you see inside a cut tree. In contrast, the phloem forms the sticky matter you contact on trees.

When photosynthesis occurs, the plant creates sugar vital for its growth and survival.

This sweet, sugary liquid comes from the phloem and is otherwise known as tree sap.

Tree Sap vs Tree Resin: What’s the Difference?

Tree sap and resin are highly confused, given that they are both secretions from trees but are different concepts. For one, they don’t look the same.

While tree sap is thin, watery, translucent, and amber in color, almost the same as honey, the resin is thicker and darker.1

The sap comes from the plant’s xylem and phloem,6 which is sugary and contains water.

Resin is a bit more complex because only members of the Pinaceae family produce it.

These trees include the pines, cedars, and firs, but the deciduous trees are out of the list.

Large dried tree sap on the cut branch of a tree in winter.

(Image: Thayne Tuason11)

The colored material from the tree’s outer cells oozes when you slice a tree that produces it. The resin acts like a tree’s scab, sealing wounds and protecting the tree as it heals.

Since it has a different component than tree sap, it is handy for other purposes like varnish, ink, and perfume manufacture.

What Is Amber and What Is It Made Of?

Amber is a product of tree gum/resin or its fossilized form. It is famous for its unique brownish or reddish color that gives it an attractive gemstone-like look.

It has been valuable for centuries, and people have used it over the years for jewelry and other decorative needs.

Resin serves as the tree’s healer because it leaks to the cut parts of the bark to cover the “wound.” It hardens and seals the affected region, acting like an antiseptic to guard the tree against insect and disease attacks.

Which Trees Produce Edible Tree Sap?

One of the most popular edible saps from trees comes from the maple, which is a favorite on breakfast tables as syrup on pancakes. The sugar maple is a popular variety with a 2% sugar level and is known for its high sap production of up to 15 gallons.3

Other maple trees (Acer tree species) also produce sap, but each has a different sugar level, some sweeter than others. Besides, the maples create syrup from the sycamore tree, nut trees, birch, alder, basswood, ironwood, and many others.

However, not all saps from trees are edible. Some plants, like the cypress tree, are known for their medicinal features and other uses but don’t make sweet sap.

How Much Sap To Make Maple Syrup?

Due to a thorough boiling and manufacturing process, the ratio of maple sap to syrup is only forty to one. Therefore, 40 gallons of maple sap shrinks to one gallon of maple syrup, although the level can increase based on several factors, like the weather, season, and the tree’s genetics.

Additionally, the sweetness rate ranges from 1-4%, although the level varies based on the tree type; for instance, the sugar maple produces the sweetest syrup.

Uses of Tree Sap

If coming across it for the first time, you may ask, what is tree sap used for? The sticky, sweet liquid from the tree’s bark contains vital nutrients for the plant.

The xylem and phloem components are critical for photosynthesis and the uptake of mineral salts by the plant.

The sap helps the plant generate energy for its physiological processes in the form of sugar, which gives it a sweet taste. It explains why it is a crucial ingredient in manufacturing syrup and other items like tree sap carts.

Closeup of tree resin showing its thicker viscosity compared with tree sap.

(Image: BastardAsh12)

However, the sap may be responsible for the plant’s general health but may also indicate tree wounds and diseases.7 The liquid will leak to show that the tree is under an insect or disease attack, and the black beetle is infamous for causing such issues.

Best Tree Sap and How To Use Them

The sap is one of the most valuable aspects of a tree, with some producing more than 10 gallons, which means a lot of money for the harvester. Below are the top choices for sap and their uses.

Maple Tree

There are about 132 types of maple trees worldwide, and the most commonly used for manufacturing syrup are the black, red, and sugar varieties. The tree is well known for its tasty sap, which is sweeter than other trees.

The syrup from the tree sap is used as a food ingredient or additional flavor and has several health benefits besides the lucrative nature of maple syrup harvesting. Boiling maple syrup and consuming it helps reduce blood pressure and the risk of gastric ulcers and cures hangovers.

Pine Tree

The various types of pine trees are stunning evergreen trees that remind you of Christmas, but few know that it also produces sap. The plants have resin to protect them, and the liquid hardens to form amber, sometimes with insects trapped inside.

The sap is a famous anti-inflammatory, antiseptic liquid used in construction as a sealant for boats.5 You can grow common types like the pinyon pine tree in your home and get tips on how to grow a pine tree from a pine cone to get started.

Birch Tree

The birch is another sap producer that makes a highly nutritious drink. It has a mild sweet taste and is similar to a thin syrup.

Experts hail it for its healing nature, detoxing features, and overall benefits to the body thanks to its high protein, amino acid, and xylitol content.

Uses of Pine Sap and How To Harvest It

Pine sap comes from the pine tree. It contains a lot of water, sugar, and mineral salts that have numerous health benefits.

When the tree’s xylem and phloem tissues facilitate photosynthesis and other processes, the carbohydrates they create become starch and sugar, forming the sticky sweet sap.

Tapping a tree for sap works but is not advisable due to the damage that it causes. Unless it is the only resort, the best and most convenient way to harvest sap from a pine tree is through the crystals that form on the trunk and branches.

Look for the golden crystals running through the tree and use them for harvesting instead of damaging the bark or trunk. The tree usually leaks sap, which hardens over the injured part but naturally produces liquid to help the tree maintain its moisture levels in summer and spring.4

Maple Sap vs Maple Syrup

The maple sap is the sticky substance from the maple tree,10 but that is not the finished product.

The product must undergo more processes to convert the raw tree sap into sweet, ready-to-consume syrup.

Maple sap turned to maple syrup and transferred into small bottles.

(Image: Little Man Syrup13)

Therefore, one is the raw material, while the other is the end product. The maple syrup comes from the concentration of the tree’s sap.

Every tap hole drilled into the tree should provide about 10 gallons, although this is a tiny fraction compared to what the tree can produce.

Out of a 10-gallon harvest of maple sap, you can expect only a quart of syrup but in most cases, the amount may increase due to favorable conditions. If the season, weather, soil, and the tree’s genetics are perfect, the better the harvest.

Also note that the sugar concentration in the syrup varies based on several factors but ranges between 1-4%. The best way to go is to make the product the same day you harvest to maintain high quality.

How To Make Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is pretty easy to make and you can do it in your home using the simple steps below.

Step 1: Gather the Tools

You need equipment to drip holes into the trees, a bucket, a spile to guide the sap into the bucket, containers to collect the liquid to where you will evaporate it, a pan, a sap filter, a thermometer, and glass jars.

Step 2: Tapping

It is a simple process where you hook taps on the tree trunks, ensuring they are not too high and you can easily collect the liquid. Next, attach the bucket to start collecting the liquid slowly, but while at it, avoid tapping dark or decayed spots on the trunk.

The maple water or tree sap usually spoils quickly, and it is best to filter and prepare maple syrup on the collection day.

Step 3: Boiling

Typically, 40-45 gallons of sap boils to create a gallon of maple syrup. You may need a large pan to make the process faster and keep replacing the liquid the more it boils down, maintaining at least an inch of fluid to prevent burning.

Finished syrup usually boils 7.1 degrees above water’s boiling point but changes based on several factors, including the weather. When ready, you can collect the syrup, store it in glass bottles or jars, and store it in a cool, dry place.

How To Pick a Maple Syrup Tree

The top choices for harvesters are the black and sugar maples with the highest sugar content. They are ideal for the best quality syrup, and an impressive feature is that they produce more syrup for every sap you harvest.

Alternatively, you can go for silver and red maples, known for excellent quality syrup, but it can be cloudy. Unlike other species, sugar maples9 produce sweeter sap and are a favorite for harvesters.

Besides the tree type, the diameter or trunk size also matters.

Rows of maple trees with spiles and buckets to collect maple sap during winter.

(Image: Dave Pape14)

You want to avoid tapping 10-12-inch-wide trees or those with defects like discolorations or rotting. The general rule for tapping is to drill one tap for 12-18-inch broad trees, two for 19-15-inch trees, and three for trees larger than 25 inches.

Maple Sugaring Tips for First Timers

  1. When selecting trees to tap, ensure that they measure at least 12 inches in diameter or 38 inches in circumference.
  2. Don’t place more than one tap on small trees because placing excessive pressure can ruin the trunk which is how to kill a tree stump or permanently damage it.
  3. Check that your drill bit and the tap are the same size.
  4. The best way to avoid sap pooling is to slightly angle the holes when drilling.
  5. Carefully drive spouts to prevent tearing the bark.
  6. Avoid discolorations and rots when taping.
  7. Don’t tap on already drilled holes.
  8. When the season is over, you can take the spouts off the holes.
  9. It is advisable to use clean food-grade jugs and buckets when collecting or transferring sap from the trees.
  10. Do not mix clear sap with cloudy or yellowish ones.

How To Get Tree Sap Off Car

The shade under trees is a perfect parking spot, but the downside is that you risk sap drips on your car, especially from January to April. You should know how to get tree sap off car windshield and other car parts because tree sap damage car paint.

There are chances of hardening and sticking to the parts, affecting the paintwork. To remove it from the car, you need a sap removal product, warm water, soap, towels, and isopropyl alcohol.

First, thoroughly wash the car and rub the sap stains with soap and water using the towels. Next, apply the sap remover on the affected part, followed by polish or wax, and the sap should ease off the car.

How To Get Tree Sap Out of Clothes and Skin

Tree sap can easily stick to your clothes or hands during handling, but you can remove it in a few steps. However, the key is to clean it as soon as possible; otherwise, it will harden and become harder to remove.

If you touch it or it rubs on your skin, apply nail polish remover and wash it with soap and water. Similarly, you can use rubbing alcohol on the affected part of your clothes before running them in a wash.2

How To Use a Tree Sap Remover

You can find professional tree sap removal products from local stores or use natural products like vinegar or rubbing alcohol. You only apply the remover on the affected part, let it sit, and gently remove the sap from your car,8 clothes, or skin.

The tree sap is often overlooked but is one of the most valuable parts of the tree beside the wood. Under the right conditions, a tree can produce a lot of sap which boils to create sweet syrup for subsistence or commercial use.

Closeup of a tree trunk showing the sticky tree resin it produces.

(Image: Kreuzschnabel15)

The maple tree, particularly the sweet maple, is known for its flavorful syrup for pancakes, waffles, and other recipes. You can also harvest tree spa from other trees like the sycamore, birch and nuts whose syrup is useful for various needs.

By planting maple trees on a large scale, you can have a great supply of tree sap and syrup for personal or commercial use which is quite lucrative.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tree Sap

Can You Eat Tree Sap?

Tree sap is the main ingredient in the manufacture of syrup that you can eat. Various trees (commonly maples) produce edible sap that undergoes multiple processes to make the final product; however be careful with sap from other trees because some, like those from the Pinaceae family, are non-edible.

What Are the Uses of Maple Sap?

After boiling, maple sap creates maple syrup that you can add to your beverages (tea and coffee), use it to make beer, or add it to water when cooking for a sweet flavor. You can also use it in making granola, cocktails, and salad dressings.

What Maple Syrup Supplies Do You Need?

You will need the following items if you want to create maple syrup in your home: clean food-grade buckets and containers, tree taps, filters, a thermometer, canning glass bottles or jars, a boiler (you can buy a commercial one or make one from cinder blocks)

Can You Remove Tree Sap on Car?

You can remove tree sap from the car using a tree sap remover, either store-bought or natural depending on the extent of the damage. After washing the car, you can apply the remover on the affected part and rub gently as the stain washes off; however remember to remove it immediately to avoid dealing with a hardened sap.

Read More About Tree Sap


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3Masons, F. (n.d.). What Is Tree Sap? Retrieved March 27, 2023, from The Tree Center: <>

4MasterClass. (2022, March 23). 5 Uses for Pine Sap: How to Harvest and Utilize Pine Resin. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from MasterClass: <>

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