Silver Maple – Acer saccharinum

Wetland Indicator Status: FACW

Aceraceae – Maple family

Synonym: Acer dasycarpum Ehrh

Silver Maple leaf

Silver Maple (Acer saccharium) leaves in the sun

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) is a very common species in hardwood swamps and floodplain forests, and it is frequently planted as a street tree.  Typical Silver Maples have deeply lobed leaves, and most trees that have been bred for ornamental purposes have even deeper lobed leaves.

 

 

flowers of a Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

The surprisingly beautiful male flowers of a Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) tree in the early spring before the leaf buds open.

Human Use of Silver Maple

The Silver Maple is often planted along streets because it grows quickly, and has attractive leaves, but in my opinion it is a poor choice.  Like most tree species that grow quickly they have the habit of having weak wood and branches.  The tree across the street from my house sheds branches large and small during nearly every thunder storm and after a heavy sticky snowfall.  Last winter a large branch fell and took out cable and phone lines that ran across the road.  The first year I lived at this house a branch about 4 inches thick fell on a car, causing some serious cosmetic damage.  Every year the tree creates driving hazards from fallen branches.  One of these storms the whole thing will come crashing down and cause some real damage.

Silver Maple Hole

The weak and rot prone wood of Silver Maples makes for hollow trees and great dens for squirrels, raccoon, opossums and nest holes for woodpeckers owls and many other birds.

Since Silver Maples can easily get four feet in diameter or larger, if they not planted carefully along sidewalks or houses their large trunks and buttressing roots can tear up the foundations and concrete walkways.  Silver maples roots are also blamed for penetrating and blocking up septic systems and sewer lines.  The Silver Maple is just a bad choice for a tree planted near streets houses and buildings.  It would be much better to plant a slow growing, but strong tree in my opinion

Unlike Sugar Maple (hard maple), the Silver Maple’s (soft maple)  wood is light and weak.  It makes poor wood for flooring, or as a primary wood for furniture.  Its wood also susceptible to rot.  Silver Maple does find its use for paper pulp, crates and secondary furniture wood.

The sap of Silver Maple is said to make a lower grade maple syrup, but it is still tapped by some.

Native Americans used the Silver Maple for building material, baskets, dye.  They also used it to treat measles, dysentery, sore eyes etc.

Wind thrown Silver Maple

Like most wetland trees Silver Maples have shallow root systems, and are easily toppled by wind.

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