Acer saccharum - Sugar Maple
Family: Aceraceae

Hear the scientific name

Acer saccharum is a stately shade tree with excellent autumn color. Sugar Maple is a common shade tree in the Eastern U.S., the national tree of Canada, and a climax forest tree in New England, where it is sometimes tapped for maple syrup. It is also prized for its high quality wood in furniture making.

Alternate common name: Rock Maple

F   E   A   T   U   R   E   S
  form2 form Form

-large deciduous tree

-maturing at 60' tall x 40' wide in urban areas, but larger under more favorable conditions such as the northeastern forests of the U.S.

-upright oval growth habit in youth, becoming more upright rounded with age

-medium growth rate

foliage2 foliage Foliage

-opposite arrangement, with medium green to dark green leaves

-the stereotypical Maple leaf foliage (as shown on the reverse of a Canadian coin)

-5-lobed, the basal 2 smaller than the upper 3, with each of the 3 upper lobes incised but not serrated

-palmate venation, with blades about 5" long and wide

-the leaves are often slightly curved downwards when viewed on a horizontal plane (contrasts with the flatter appearance of the Norway Maple)

-dense foliage on twigs

-autumn color yellow, orange, and/or red, sometimes undergoing this transition sequence during prolonged autumn coloration, usually striking due to the size of mature trees

Flowers
flowers

-pendulous inflorescences in Apr. (before the foliage), yellow-green, waving in the breeze, and giving the tree a very fine-textured lime appearance in early spring

Fruit
fruit

-2 samaras (each 1.5" long) per stalk, having parallel wings

-medium green, in pendulous clusters from the stems, maturing to brown in Oct.

Twig
twig

-brown-red and lenticeled, with small dark brown or gray buds in winter

trunk2 trunk Trunk

-light brown to light gray branches becoming brown, gray, or black trunks, fissuring in youth to yield large, irregular plates with age, sometimes with orange interiors

-larger plates on the trunk distinguish this species from the similar Norway Maple, whose bark is more furrowed than platy

C   U   L   T   U   R   E
 

Culture

-full sun to full shade, but best in full sun

-prefers cool, moist summers in deep, well-drained, moist, slightly acidic soils

-not tolerant of extreme heat, drought, thin soils, or soil compaction

-prone to branch dieback (due to drought or Verticillium wilt) under stressful conditions

-abundantly available with many cultivars, usually in B&B form

distribution map

Hardiness

-zones 4 to 8

Origin

-native to Eastern U.S. and Southern Canada

U   S   A   G   E
 

Assets

-dense summer shade

-brilliant autumn color that often has a sequence of different bright colors

-platy bark in old age

-wildlife attraction (squirrels and birds will eat samaras in winter)

-shade tolerant (in youth)

-symmetrical winter branching

Liabilities

-shallow root system surfaces with age

-leaf scorch, leaf tatter, and branch dieback in hot, dry summers

-prone to Verticillium wilt

-sometimes has frost cracks but not as severe as Norway Maple

-often a choice of sapsuckers but recovers from the winter bird wounding

-slow establishment in urban conditions

-not urban tolerant, especially to root disturbance, soil compaction, or soil backfill

Function

-shade, specimen, or autumn accent tree (but not a good street tree, due to size, surface roots, and urban intolerance)

Texture

-medium texture in foliage and medium-fine when bare

-thick density in foliage and when bare

S   E   L   E   C   T   I   0   N   S
 

Varieties and Cultivars - Search OSU PlantFacts for additional plants in this species

Alternates

-large shade trees (Betula nigra, Corylus colurna, Fraxinus americana, Quercus rubra, Zelkova, etc.)

-shade trees with excellent autumn color (Acer rubrum October Glory®, Betula lenta, Fraxinus pennsylvanica Cimmaron®, Nyssa sylvatica, Quercus coccinea, Ulmus parvifolia, etc.)

 


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