Maple trees have a secret plan to take over the world, full stop.
You may find this ridiculous or amusing, but it’s true. I have been tracking maple tree behavior for six years, and they are winning. Don’t believe me? Check for yourself. Find an abandoned lot or any place with soil that is not carefully tended. Get close to the ground and look around quickly—I guarantee there will be maple saplings. Now, try pulling one up. If it’s more than three inches tall, it will barely budge. Break it off at ground level, come back in two-three weeks, and it will be back, strong as ever.
I willingly accept my role in the vanguard to protect against this conspiracy, which is why I pull up every maple sapling in my garden on a regular basis. My vigilance in protecting my garden is how I discovered the conspiracy. Maple trees shed little helicopter-ish seeds each spring, and the wind blows them everywhere. It is not surprising then that I find maple saplings everywhere in the spring or even summer. But why do I find two-inch tall saplings in November??? Where have they been hiding for seven months?
Hiding is close to a superpower for saplings. They are under hostas, buried in patches of canna, and in my plant pots on the deck. Black-eyed Susans spread relentlessly, yet there are always maples embedded with them. Sometimes, I have had to dig up flowers to get rid of maple saplings. Mulch blocks weeds, but maples love it.
I look over my garden regularly. And yet, somehow, saplings manage to grow six inches tall hidden amid the flowers before being discovered. If I didn’t know better, I would swear someone is planting them on purpose. I considered blaming the squirrels, but they specialize in walnut and pecan trees, which is why a stubborn walnut tree is growing in the middle of my salvia.
Look at any images where land has been reclaimed by wilderness, and you will see very few elms, oaks, or pines. There may be a few of those, but it’s just to makes things look legit. But look closer, and there will be at least three maples for every other kind of tree.
I hate locating and pulling up maple saplings, but that is not the most galling aspect of the conspiracy. No, the most irritating and insulting aspect is the absolute disdain they have for my character and how simpleminded they consider humans in general. A conspiracy this big should be hard to keep secret, but the maples are diabolical. They prey on our weaknesses—syrup and fall colors—all the while laughing at us.
Two years ago, my neighbors next door to the west cut down a maple tree, and within a few months, the neighbors to the east planted a new one. Every autumn, the beautiful red-orange leaves from the new arrival drift confidently into my yard. Around the corner, the street is lined with maples, and autumn brings a golden yellow wall that shimmers against the pale blue sky in the morning light. On those chilly mornings, I look out the breakfast room window at the interplay between color and light, pour warm maple syrup over my pancakes, and curse the saplings in my future—but not out loud (there are maple trees everywhere).