What Is Tree Sap and What Causes It?

Have you ever noticed liquid seeping out of tree bark when walking through the woods or your backyard? You’re likely looking at tree sap.

But what is tree sap, and what causes trees to secrete this liquid? In this article, Clemmons’ tree service company answers those questions and more, including a full visual guide to tree sap.

Read on to learn what causes tree sap and why it’s so important for the health of your trees.

What Is in Tree Sap?

Tree sap is the sticky, sweet liquid from a tree trunk. It is in all vascular plants, but it’s most prevalent in deciduous trees, such as maple, beech, and birch, and coniferous trees, like spruce and pine trees.

It consists of plant sugars called “sucrose” and “glucose” and other compounds that help protect the tree from insects and disease.

Its composition is mainly:

  • Sugars/polysaccharides
  • Proteins/amino acids
  • Minerals/salts (potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and nitrogen)
  • Water

Interestingly deciduous trees don’t produce resin; they produce sap. Their sap is not as thick as resin, which has a light amber color. Coniferous or evergreen trees like pine, cedar, and Douglas fir produce sap and tree resin.

Do Some Trees Have Edible Sap?

So what is tree sap that’s edible? And are there trees that produce it?

One very popular tree is the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). This sap has a sugar content of as much as 2%, and its flavor is similar to honey. You can use it as a natural sweetener for drinks or baked goods or even as a substitute for table sugar. The sap is also integral to candy production.

The sugar maple is native to eastern North America, from Canada south through the Appalachian Mountains as far south as northern Alabama.

Several types of trees produce edible sap. The following list covers some of the most popular ones:

  • Birch (Betula spp.)
  • Ash (Fraxinus spp.)
  • Walnut (Juglans spp.)

Why Do Trees Produce Tree Sap?

Trees also use tree sap in xylem cells to transport water throughout their bodies. The color of tree sap depends on which kind of tree you’re looking at. For example, black cherry trees produce a bright red sap, while white birch trees produce a lighter, yellowish sap.

What is tree sap that’s toxic? Some trees also produce toxic substances in their sap, which can cause illness or death to humans and animals that consume it. These toxic compounds (phloem-mobile toxins) include compounds such as urushiol (the active ingredient in poison ivy).

In addition to phloem-mobile toxins, some trees contain chemicals called phenolics that they use to defend against herbivores (animals that eat plants).

Contact Us for Tree Care Tips in Clemmons, NC, and the Surrounding Areas

Are you tired of dealing with the hassle of tree care on your own? We understand how tough it can be to handle all the different aspects of caring for trees on your property.

That’s why we offer professional tree care services, including putting mulch around tree bases and ensuring healthy and well-maintained trees in your yard.

Frady Tree Care Specialists in Clemmons, NC, and the surrounding areas is here to help. We have been providing tree care services for over a decade, so if you are looking for tree care tips, we are here for you.

Our team of experts will work with you to ensure that we take care of your trees and answer questions such as “What is tree sap?” that you may be wondering about.

Contact us at 704-644-2516 to set up an appointment, and let us take care of your trees today!


Frady Tree Care has the most reliable and professional tree services in the Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Kernersville, Clemmons & High Point, NC areas! Our team is a third-generation certified and fully-insured arboriculture firm. With more than 100 years of combined experience, we are the tree service experts you can trust.


Charlotte Office

8640 Charlotte University City Blvd.  Suite A3-241        Charlotte, NC 28213
Phone : (704) 644-2516

Lexington Office

402 W. 4th Avenue,    Lexington, NC 27292
Phone : (336) 236-1006

Salisbury Office

1460 Henderson Grove Church Rd,
Salisbury, NC 28147
Phone : (704) 644-2516

Winston-Salem Office

1035 Shalimar Drive.      Winston-Salem, NC 27107
Phone : (336) 236-1006

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