The Sweetest Sap
Characters: Sammy Squirrel, Grandpa Squirrel, Fir Tree, Beech Tree, Red Maple, Sugar Maple
Sammy Squirrel Ya know, these acorns are filling, but I’m getting bored with them. All winter long, nothing but nuts and seeds.
Grandpa Squirrel Well, Sammy, when I was a youngun, I didn’t sit around complainin’. Warm days in the spring, I’d run up a maple tree and drink the sweep sap. Fills ya full o’ energy, sap does. Puts a real frisk in yer tail.
Sammy A sweet energy drink? Gee, I gotta try that. See ya, Gramps! (exits)
Grandpa Wait! It’s got to be a maple, sonny! Oh well, he’ll find out for hisself, I suppose.
These younguns, always in sich a hurry…
(exits; enter Sammy and Fir Tree)
Sammy Oh boy, here’s a tree with sap oozing from its bark. (nibbles) Ew, kinda thsticky. Bleh – tathes terrible! Hey! What kind of a tree are you anyway? Your sap isn’t sweet!
Fir Tree (haughtily) I am a fir tree. What is it you seek, young squirrel?
Sammy I’m looking for sweet tree sap to drink. My gramps said…
Fir Tree Perhaps your grandfather was referring to one of those leafless trees. We evergreens keep our needles all year and our sap keeps insects away.
Sammy Well, that’s pine for you! Guess I’m lookin’ for a tree without needles. Bye! (fir exits; Beech Tree enters) Oh boy! Here’s a tree without needles. I’ll just nibble a hole…
Beech Tree What are you up to, young squirrel?
Sammy I’m just nibbling a little hole so I can drink your sap.
Beech Well, Sammy dear, my sap isn’t sweet, and it doesn’t run in the spring. You see, I’m a beech tree. You can tell because of my smooth, light gray bark.
Sammy Guess I’m barking up the wrong tree again!
Beech Yes, dearie. What you want is a maple – a tree with rough, dark gray bark.
Sammy But lots of trees have rough bark. Is that the only way to tell a maple tree?
Beech No, you just have to find a tree with opposite twigs and buds.
Sammy Opposite twigs? How’s that?
Beech See how my branches grow? A twig on one side, then up a bit to a twig on the other. I have alternate twigs.
Sammy Yes, I see how your twigs and buds alternate, one on this side, one on the other – you’ve got zigzag twigs!
Beech That’s right. But maple twigs and buds are opposite each other on the branch.
Sammy Really! Are they the only trees that have opposite twigs and buds?
Beech Oh no, ash and dogwood do too.
Sammy But then how can I tell a maple?
Beech Well, around here, all the dogwoods are little shrubby things, never as big as trees. And ash, well, their twigs are rather stout.
Sammy Stout? You mean thick? Are maple twigs thick, or are they thin, like yours?
Beech Quite thin, yes, but opposite, dearie. Remember, thin and opposite. (exits)
Sammy Okay, so no leaves, rough bark, thin, opposite twigs. Off I go! (exits; Red Maple enters, Sammy reappears) Phew, I’ve been up and down a dozen trees, and they’ve all had either alternate buds or thick twigs.
Red Maple Hey there, Sammy. You look plum flummoxed.
Sammy I sure am! I’ve been looking for a tree with rough bark, thin, opposite twigs… hey, just like you! You’re a maple! Oh boy! I can’t wait to taste your sap.
Red Maple Just a minute, Sammy. I don’t want to sap your enthusiasm, but if you’re after sweet sap, you need to find my cousin.
Sammy But aren’t you a maple?
Red Maple Yes, but I’m a red maple. All maples make sap in the spring, but only sugar maples have really sweet-tasting sap.
Sammy Then how can I find a sugar maple?
Red Maple Look at the buds, buddy! See, my buds are rounded and red. Sugar maple buds are pointy and brown. Good luck! (exits)
Sammy Pointy, brown buds! (Sugar Maple enters) Hmmm, how about this big tree? Let’s see. No leaves, check. Rough bark, check. Thin, opposite twigs, check. Pointy, brown buds, check! Could this be…? Hello, tree! Are you a sugar maple?
Sugar Maple Ahem. Who’s that chattering at me? Can’t a tree get any rest around here?
Sammy It’s me, Sammy Squirrel. I was just wondering if you’re a sugar maple. My gramps says sugar maples have sweet sap that I can drink.
Sugar Maple Well, it just so happens I am a sugar maple. So you think we make sap just so you squirrels can drink it?!
Sammy Well, only if you have extra. I’ve looked all over the forest to find you.
Sugar Maple Well, actually, I have plenty of sap. I’ve been sharing sap with humans for years. Just scurry up to that branch that broke off in the ice storm. The sap’s leaking out, so you won’t have to gnaw a hole in my bark.
Sammy Wow! Thanks a lot!
Sugar Maple And tell your grandpa I said hello!
Sammy Okay! Yum! Gramps was right! This is the sweetest drink ever. (both exit)
Sammy (needles, twigs stuck in fur) Hi, Gramps. It’s me! I’m back!
Grampa Squirrel Well now, look at you, Sammy. Guess ya found yer maple sap!
Sammy How’d you guess, Gramps?
Grandpa Squirrel Well, youngun, it’s yer whiskers, that gives ’er away! I’d say they’re a mite sticky, young fella.
Sammy You’re pretty smart, Gramps! I did find the sap, but first I had to learn how to tell a sugar maple from a lot of other trees. I learned something else, too.
Grandpa Squirrel What’s that, Sammy?
Sammy That I’m really sweet on maple! Mm, mm!