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Silver maple

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Silver maple
Silver maple.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Acer saccharinum

Silver maple7.jpg
Silver Maple seeds

The silver maple is a species of maple trees that is native to the U.S. and Canada. It is also known as the creek maple, the soft maple, and the white maple. It usually lives in wet lands or on rivers and streams. It isn’t a very tall tree but is still a pretty good size. It has many uses, but the wood isn’t hard enough to be used in making furniture[1].


A young silver maple trunk

The silver maple is a faster growing deciduous tree. It usually will reach a height of 15-25 m. It will generally be 11-15 m wide. It is most commonly found along streams and river and in wetlands, which is where it gets its colloquial name "water maple". The tree itself is highly adaptable, because it does have a high sunlight requirement like other maples[2].

The leaves of the silver maple are palmate and grow 8-16 cm long and 6-12 cm wide with deep angular notches between the five lobes. The stalks are about 5-12 cm long, which mean that even the lightest breeze can create a great effect as the silver undersides of the leaves are exposed. The autumn color of the leaves are not as vibrant as in many maples, which is generally a pale yellow or orange.

The flowers of the silver maple are in small panicles, which are produced before the leaves in early spring. The seeds are winged and in pairs. They are small with the wing of the seed mainly at about 3-5 cm long. The wings can provide some of the transport by air but the leaves are transported by water such as: in streams, rivers, and other various waterways. The trunks mature bark is gray and shaggy. The branches of younger trunks bark is smooth and silvery gray, hence the name “silver maple”[3].


Silver maples reproductive seeds

The silver maple is the first of the maples to bloom in North America, it can begin as early as February and all the way into May. The flowers are a greenish yellow and will bloom before the leaves start to appear. The trees are born on short pedicels in sessile, or on short, spur-like branchlets that have developed the previous year. You can see separate clusters of female and male flowers on the same tree, but they are most often found on different trees.

Some of the silver maples that were grown in Holland started to show a consistent pattern for the same tree to produce female flowers one year and both female and male flowers the next year. But the trees that produced only the male flowers never showed this pattern. The fruits and seeds of the silver maple develop very rapidly. Within the 24 hours after pollination, the flower parts will become withered and then the ovaries begin to swell up. The fruits are about 6 mm long 1 week after pollination occurs. At about the end of 3 weeks, when the seeds finally become mature Samaras, they are about 5 cm long. The fruit pedicels are short, and grow anywhere in length from 2.5 cm to almost 9 cm. When the fruits are ripening they change from a green color to yellow or reddish brown color.

The silver maple seeds do not require pretreatment. They are capable of germinating immediately at maturity. When the seeds are covered, the germination will be hypogeal. When the seeds germinate on bare soil, the development of the hypocotyl isn’t very efficient[4].


The Silver Maple can be found almost anywhere in the U.S.

The silver fir can be found anywhere from New Brunswick, Maine, and southern Quebec, all the way down to the southern United States. Some trees have been placed in places such as the Black sea coast of Russia. They have done very well and are reproducing in smaller groups of trees.

The growing season of the silver maple is from May to August. There isn’t an actual climate that influences the range in which the tree can grow and live in. The tree likes to live in the more temperate regions along the streams; it doesn’t like the more extreme weather. They almost never grow in the colder mountainous regions but can be found in the drier areas along the streams and rivers. The tree can also survive short periods of flooding which gives it an advantage over other plants that can't grow in an area where flooding could occur[5].

The soil that you may find when you see a silver maple is usually brown and gray brown podzols, but the species is most commonly found in the alluvial soils in then orders Inseptisols and Mollisols. The tree likes to be in well drained and moist areas. The soils pH level can vary from low levels such as 2.2 to 3.3 but can get as high as 4.0.

The silver maple is a dominant plant along streamside’s and along the sides of lakes and rivers[6]. Some may be found in swamps and in areas of slower drainage.


The buds of the silver maple are a main food source for many squirrels. The buds burst in the late winter months when the food source of the squirrels is running low so it is a vital food source. Silver maple also is a high food source for beavers in southeastern Ohio.

Some studies showed that the maples can live on floodplains which showed that the species ranks far above other trees on wet. The species is usually planted as an ornamental tree in the urban areas of the U.S. The silver maple has also been planted as a farmstead windbreak in several locations in Minnesota. Tests in Ontario of five maple species showed that the quality and taste of the syrup from silver maple sap is satisfactory. Although the sugar content of the silver maple sap ranked as the lowest of the five species tested[7].