Silver Maple

Tree of the Month
Silver Maple, Acer saccharinum

by Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

Beautiful contrast of the Silver Maple leaf.   Photos by Lesley Bruce Smith

Beautiful contrast of the Silver Maple leaf.  Photos by Lesley Bruce Smith

The Silver Maple is one of those trees that gets a lot of bad press. It is not one of our favorites because it has a history of poor structure and due to it’s fast growth habit is considered to be a weak tree. But like any tree planted in the right location and given the necessary growth requirements it has much to commend it.  Personally, I love the view of a big Silver Maple on a windy day. That’s when we can see and appreciate the lovely silver greygreen undersides of the leaves contrasted against the dark green on the topsides. I’ve lived across the street from one for over two decades.

Silver Maple on a windy day

Silver Maple on a windy day

Studies, and years of observation on our part, show that Silver Maples, although considered weak wooded, actually fair better with ice and snow loads and in heavy wind storms than the mighty Oaks. They tend to spring back instead of break. They can tolerate many of the insults we tend to throw at them in a city and suburban environment. They are shorter lived than their cousins the Sugar Maples, but can take a lot more punishment during their shorter life span. Horticulturists have used the positive characters of the Silver Maple and crossed it with many other Maple species for the hundreds of Maple hybrids that we see on our city streets. Few trees grow well in damp or wet soils but the Silver Maple is one of them that does, and they do it well!  That makes them a good choice for our area, if they are planted using the native species and propagated thoughtfully and carefully from native seed stock.  We are always a little hesitant to recommend Maples because SO many are being planted to replace our failing Ash trees. (To learn why see Mother Nature’s Moment this month.)

However, the Silver Maple is a tree worth caring for and about because it holds a strong place in our urban forests.

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