Silver Maple, Acer saccharinum
Silver maple is a common, large, bottomland tree in the eastern
US and Canada. The common name refers to the silvery color
of the underside of the leaves. Other common names for the
species include soft maple, silverleaf maple, white maple,
river maple, swamp maple and water maple. Silver maple has
been widely planted in urban areas, but is susceptible to
breakage by snow and ice. Silver maple wood is fairly hard
and easily worked. It is often cut and sold with red maple
as "soft maple" lumber.
· USDA Plant Guide for Silver Maple: PDF File
· Species Description: Silvics of North American Hardwoods
· Virginia Tech Dendrology Fact Sheet for Silver Maple
· University of Connecticut Plant Database
Silver maple can reach a height of over 100 feet, and typically
has a short, thick trunk and spreading, open crown. Long curving
branches have drooping twigs, which turn upward at the ends.
The bark of young trees is light gray and thin, but becomes
furrowed into long scaly ridges, which are often pulled away
from the trunk on larger trees.
Leaves are arranged oppositely along the twigs, and five-lobed,
with long, sharply pointed lobes. Leaf sinuses are V-shaped
and deep with three main veins extending from the leaf base.
The leaf margins are double toothed. Leaves are pale green
above, and silvery white beneath. Leaves turn pale yellow
or soft gold in the fall.
Silver maple flowers very early in the spring, normally before
red maple, and before leaves open (March & April). Flowers
are greenish or yellow, 6 mm long, and emerge from red buds.
Fruits are winged samaras, in pairs, which are widely spread.
are light brown with pink veins, and mature about three weeks
Silver maple is found throughout the eastern US and adjacent
Canada, except along the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains.
Its natural range extends from Maine and New Brunswick in
the east, through southern Quebec and Ontario, west to Minnesota
and parts of South Dakota. The range extends south through
Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to Louisiana.
Silver maple has also been planted in the western US and has
been introduced to areas along the Black Sea in the former
Soviet Union and parts of Europe.
Silver maple is commonly found on stream banks, flood plains
and lake edges. It grows best on moist, well drained, bottomland
soils, but can survive periodic flooding. On poor sites it
needs full sunlight to establish itself, but on better sites
can stand some shade. The tree also grows very well under
a variety of conditions when planted as an ornamental.
The wood of silver maple is relatively hard, even textured
and easily worked. It is used for pulp, as well as lumber,
and is general used for many of the same products as red maple.
It is often mixed with red maple lumber and sold as "soft
maple". The lumber is used in products such as furniture,
cabinets, flooring, pallets and a number of other applications.
Silver maple sap can be used to produce maple syrup, but is
not often tapped by commercial sugarmakers. This is due to
the low sugar content of the sap and tendency for the trees
to flower very early in the spring.1
Silver maple has also been planted extensively as an urban
tree. In spite of its ability to be successful on poor sites,
it has a number of drawbacks including its large size when
mature, its tendency to easy breakage, and its shallow root
system which can damage pavement and clog septic lines.
1. Maple flowering is a sign that the tree's metabolism is
changing, swelling flower & leaf buds indicate that the
flavor of the syrup is changing and the sap collection season
USDA, NRCS. 2001. Plant Guide; Silver Maple. National Plant
Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.