Silver maple

Not to be confused with Acer saccharum, the Sugar Maple.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Sapindaceae[1]
Genus: Acer
Species: A. saccharinum
Binomial name
Acer saccharinum
L.
Natural range of Acer saccharinum

Acer saccharinum, commonly known as silver maple,[2] creek maple, silverleaf maple,[2] soft maple,[2] water maple,[2] swamp maple,[2] or white maple[2]—is a species of maple native to eastern North America in the eastern United States and Canada. It is one of the most common trees in the United States.

Description

The silver maple is a relatively fast-growing deciduous tree, commonly reaching a height of 15–25 m (50–80 ft), exceptionally 35 m (115 ft). Its spread will generally be 11–15 m (35–50 ft) wide. A 10-year-old sapling will stand about 8 m (25 ft) tall. It is often found along waterways and in wetlands, leading to the colloquial name "water maple". It is a highly adaptable tree, although it has higher sunlight requirements than other maples.


The leaves are palmate, 8–16 cm long and 6–12 cm broad, with deep angular notches between the five lobes. The 5–12 cm long, slender stalks of the leaves mean that even a light breeze can produce a striking effect as the silver undersides of the leaves are exposed. The autumn color is less pronounced than in many maples, generally ending up a pale yellow, although some specimens can produce a more brilliant yellow and even orange and red colorations. The tree has a tendency to color and drop its leaves slightly earlier in autumn than other maples.


The flowers are in small panicles, produced before the leaves in early spring, with the seeds maturing in early summer. The seeds are winged, in pairs, small (5–10 mm diameter), the wing about 3–5 cm long. Although the wings provide for some transport by air, the seeds are heavy and are also transported by water. The seeds are the largest of any native maple.

On mature trunks, the bark is gray and shaggy. On branches and young trunks, the bark is smooth and silvery gray.

Cultivation and uses

Wildlife uses the silver maple in various ways. In many parts of the eastern U.S., the large rounded buds are one of the primary food sources for squirrels during the spring, after many acorns and nuts have sprouted and the squirrels' food is scarce. The seeds are also a food source for squirrels, chipmunks and birds. The bark can be eaten by beaver and deer. The trunks tend to produce cavities, which can shelter squirrels, raccoons, opossums, owls and woodpeckers.[3]

Native Americans used the sap of wild trees to make sugar, as medicine, and in bread. They used the wood to make baskets and furniture.[3] An infusion of bark removed from the south side of the tree is used by the Mohegan for cough medicine.[4] It is also used by other tribes for various purposes.[5]

Today the wood can be used as pulp for making paper.[6] Lumber from the tree is used in furniture, cabinets, flooring, musical instruments, crates and tool handles, because it is light and easily worked. Because of the silver maple's fast growth, it is a potential source of biofuels.[3] Silver maple produces a sweet sap, but it is generally not used by commercial sugarmakers because of the low sugar content.[6]


The silver maple is often planted as an ornamental tree because of its rapid growth and ease of propagation and transplanting. It is highly tolerant of urban situations, which is why it is frequently planted next to streets. But it has brittle wood, and is commonly damaged in storms. The roots are shallow and fibrous and easily invade septic fields and old drain pipes and can also crack sidewalks and foundations. It is a vigorous resprouter, and if not pruned, it will often grow with multiple trunks. Although it naturally is found near water, it can grow on drier ground if planted there.

It is also commonly cultivated outside its native range, showing tolerance of a wide range of climates, growing successfully as far north as central Norway and south to Orlando, Florida. It can thrive in a Mediterranean climate, as at Jerusalem and Los Angeles, if summer water is provided. It is also grown in temperate parts of the Southern Hemisphere: Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, the southern states of Brazil, as well as in a few lower temperature locations within the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, (also in Brazil).

The silver maple is closely related to the red maple (Acer rubrum), and can hybridise with it, the hybrid being known as the Freeman maple (Acer x freemanii). The Freeman maple is a popular ornamental tree in parks and large gardens, combining the fast growth of silver maple with the less brittle wood and less invasive roots of the red maple.

The silver maple is the favoured host of the parasitic cottony maple scale. and the maple bladder gall mite Vasates quadripedes.[7]

Cultural References

In the English Christmas carol, "Wassail, Wassail All Over the Town", the "white maple" in "Our bowl, it is made of the white maple tree" refers not to the silver (white) maple but the wood of the sycamore maple, Acer pseudoplatanus.

References

  • UConn Plant Database: Silver Maple
  • Trees of Western North Carolina: Silver Maple
  • images at bioimages.vanderbilt.edu
  • Trees of Western North Carolina: Silver

External links

  • Winter ID pictures
  • Interactive Distribution Map for Acer saccharinum
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