Common in older landscapes because of their quick growth, even the slightest breeze can make the silver undersides of silver maple trees look like the whole tree is shimmering. Because of its wide use as a fast-growing tree, most of us have a silver maple or a few on our urban blocks. In addition to their use as fast-growing shade trees, silver maples were also widely planted in reforestation projects. Continue reading to learn more silver maple tree information.
Silver maples (Acer saccharinum) prefer to grow in moist, slightly acidic soil. They are moderately drought tolerant, but are more recognized for their ability to survive in standing water for long periods of time. Because of this water tolerance, silver maples were often planted along river banks or edges of other waterways for erosion control. They can tolerate high water levels in spring and receding water levels in midsummer.
In natural areas, their early spring blooms are important to bees and other pollinators. Their prolific seeds are eaten by grosbeaks, finches, wild turkeys, ducks, squirrels, and chipmunks. Its leaves provide food for deer, rabbits, cecropia moth caterpillars, and white tussock moth caterpillars.
Growing silver maple trees are prone to forming deep holes or cavities that provide homes for raccoons, opossums, squirrels, bats, owls, and other birds. Near waterways, beavers often eat silver maple bark and use their limbs for building beaver dams and lodges.
Hardy in zones 3-9, silver maple tree growth is about 2 feet (0.5 m.) or more per year. Their vase-shaped growth habit can top out at anywhere from 50 to 80 feet (15 to 24.5 m.) tall depending on location and can be 35 to 50 feet (10.5 to 15 m.) wide. While they were once widely used as quick growing street trees or shade trees for landscapes, silver maples are not so popular in recent years because their brittle limbs are prone to breakage from strong winds or heavy snow or ice.
Silver maple’s large vigorous roots can also damage sidewalks and driveways, as well as sewer and drain pipes. The soft wood that is prone to forming holes or cavities can also be prone to fungus or grubs.
Another drawback to silver maples is that their prolific, winged seed pairs are highly viable and seedlings will quickly sprout up in any open soil without any special requirements, like stratification. This can make them a pest to agriculture fields and quite annoying to home gardeners. On the positive side, this makes silver maples very easy to propagate by seed.
In recent years, red maples and silver maples have been bred together to create the hybrid Acer freemanii. These hybrids are fast growing like silver maples but more durable against strong winds and heavy snow or ice. They also have prettier fall colors, usually in reds and oranges, unlike the yellow fall color of silver maples.
If planting a silver maple tree is a project you’d like to undertake but without the downsides, then opt for one of these hybrid types instead. Varieties in the Acer freemanii include:
Many different species of maple trees exist, a majority of which are found growing throughout North America. The silver maple tree (Acer saccharinum) is mostly distributed throughout the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. Silver maples are typically grown as shade tree in landscapes and are prized for their attractive leaves. The silver maple can also grow in a wide range of soil types and environmental conditions. Silver maple trees can tolerate compacted, poor soils, hot and dry climates, urban conditions and even air pollution.
Identify the silver maple tree by its size and canopy shape. The silver maple reaches 50 to 80 feet in height and has a 35- to 50-foot-wide, vase-shaped canopy.
Study the leaves to identify a silver maple tree. The silver maple’s leaves are green on the upper surfaces, silvery on the undersides, 3 to 6 inches long and wide, and deeply lobed, with five separate lobes. The leaves are arranged opposite each other in pairs.
Study the fruits to identify silver maples, which are double-winged and V-shaped. These maple trees produce 1- to 2-inch-long, elongated fruits that are green to brownish in color and mature in spring.
Look at the flowers to spot silver maple trees. The flowers are yellowish-red and bloom during early to mid-March.
Identify the silver maple by its bark, which is silvery-gray when young. As the silver maple tree ages, the bark develops thin, scaly plates on its trunk with a reddish tint to the scales.
Also notice the tree’s growth habit to identify the silver maple. Silver maple trees are extremely fast-growing and have vigorous, spreading roots that can easily damage sidewalks, foundations, driveways and sewer or septic lines.
Don’t mistake the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) with the silver maple, both of which have similarly lobed leaves with paler undersides. Unlike silver maple trees, the sugar maple’s horseshoe-shaped, double-winged fruits mature in fall. A distinguishing feature of silver maples is that the twigs emit a foul or fetid odor when the bark is bruised or scraped.
Q: I have three sugar maples in my yard, planted in 2001. Last year they were all green but no real growth. This year two aren’t doing well. They have leaves with dark spots on them.
A: Well, I have bad news and good news.
The bad news is that you don’t have sugar maples. The leaves in your photos are those of silver maple, a distinctly inferior tree. I do not recommend it for most landscapes because its limbs are weak, causing large- and small-sized ones to frequently fall.
The good news is that the disease spots you are seeing on the silver maple rarely damage it. The tree is susceptible to numerous diseases: tar spot, phyllosticta leaf spot, bacterial leaf spot, etc.
Leaf spots are common on many trees at this time of year but though they are disfiguring, they are rarely fatal.
Leaf spot on silver maple
The Silver Maple is a fast growing tree which is commonly used in the urban landscape. The leaves on a Silver Maple are green on top and a silvery-white color on the underside. A slight breeze makes them shimmer and flutter in the wind. In autumn, this tree displays a short but nice display of yellow color. This maple is a good shade tree and one that does well in the urban setting due to its tolerance of hot, dry conditions and pollution. This tree is a very hardy selection that grows in a wide range of soil types.
The Silver Maple is also known as the Soft Maple.
The Silver Maple is a fast growing maple that can handle the urban environment. It is important to note where you plant these as their roots can cause sidewalks and driveways to crack, and their roots can penetrate sewers and septic systems. Keep these at least 25' away from any areas that could cause concerns.
In the natural landscape, the Silver Maple is commonly found in streamside areas, along lake fringes and in gullies, swamps and slow drainage areas. While this maple tree will do fine in most soil moisture situations, it tends to especially thrive on the constantly moist sites.
Common uses for the Silver Maple include:
The Silver Maple is used by many types of ducks as nesting habitat. This maple produces abundant annual seed crops the seeds are eaten by many birds, including evening grosbeaks, finches, wild turkeys and other game birds, as well as squirrels and chipmunks. The soft wood of Silver Maple has a tendency to develop cavities which are used by cavity-nesting birds and mammals, providing shelter for a number of species including raccoons, opossums, squirrels, owls, and woodpeckers.
Silver maple trees are one of the most common trees in the United States. Their scientific name is acer saccharinum other common names are water maple, white maple, river maple, swamp maple and silverleaf maple. It is native to the eastern United States and southeast Canada, although it has been cultivated in a wide range of climates, including Norway and Argentina. The silver maple tree is a fast-growing deciduous tree that is often planted for its ability to provide shade under its wide canopy.
Description of Silver Maples
The silver maple tree usually grows between 50 and 80 feet tall with a spread of 35 to 50 feet. The bark of the trunk and branches are silver and smooth when young, turning gray and shaggy as it matures. The tree grows voraciously and often asymmetrically. The leaves of the silver maple have 5 jagged lobes with a silver underbelly. The fall colors of the silver maple are not as brilliant and varied as other maples, usually turning yellow, sometimes red or orange. Red flowers are produced by the female trees in late winter to herald the coming of spring. The silver maple has a shallow, fibrous root system that can clog underground pipes if planted in the wrong place.
Planting Silver Maples
Silver maples are highly adaptable trees, but they grow healthier if planted in slightly acidic to neutral soil. In the wild, they are usually found near bodies of water, so plant in a moist, well-draining soil. Plant in an area where they can receive at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. They can be directly grown by seed, which should be planted in the fall. The seeds do not to be scarified (piercing the seed coat) or stratified (stored through the winter), but can be planted immediately after purchasing or collecting.
Maintaining Silver Maples
Water silver maples regularly until they are fully established. While being drought resistant, the roots can also withstand wet feet for many weeks without causing any harm. While still small, the silver maple can be easily transplanted from place to place without traumatizing the sapling.
Attributes and Uses of Silver Maples
Silver maples' early budding provide food for starving creatures at the end of a long winter. The wide canopy provides shade and nesting for many animals. It is also a main food source for beavers. Silver maples are often planted as an ornamental, enjoyed for their quick growth and beauty. Maple syrup can also be made from the sap of the silver maple, but the silver maple sap has a lower sugar content than most other maples. Soft maple wood is also cut from the silver maple, as well as the red maple.
Zubenelgenubi (author) on July 06, 2020:
Since both the silver maple tree and red maple tree are common landscaping trees probably the best place to buy them would be your local nursery. There you should be able to find those varieties that are mature and ready for your yard.
Alene Thornton on July 06, 2020:
Where can I buy a silver and red maple?
Keith on February 08, 2019:
Cynthia, nitrogen fertilizers will cause more green leafy growth.
Regarding leaves being a burden, mow them into your grass. Shredded leaves is amazing fertility for the soil. This is a gift not a curse.
M.Brock on September 10, 2017:
My silver maple tree had a landscape timber box around the base with a ground cover planted in it for about 8 years. I removed the wooden timbers and noticed the dirt around the tree is very hard and is about 14 inches thick. Many ants surround the tree and yellow jackets were attracted to the area until I sprayed and removed the wood. How should I loosen the dirt is this all roots? The tree is over 30 years old and appears healthy.
Cynthia on July 30, 2017:
I have a silver maple, and I am so unhappy with it. The leaves are constantly falling, and I rake every single day. Did some research, and was told to give it fertilizer, which I did, and the leaves are worse than ever. Also, I was told to give the tree a granular insecticide, but not until the fall. Help.
Maryb on July 20, 2017:
We have a silver maple that is 30 years old. it seem to have a fungi growing on it, the leaves are dying and the branches are getting green spots all over it. some of the branches have died.. what to do.
Sandi on June 13, 2017:
It appears my silver maple has a strong odor like cat urine - normal.
Kathryne on September 07, 2014:
I planted a Silver Maple away from my well, septic system, and house, but it is close to the pipe that comes from the well into the house. This pipe is buried six feet down. Is this a problem?
Though trees can add to the beauty of your yard, there are some varieties that are not suitable for the same. Here's more about the trees you should avoid planting in your yard.
Though trees can add to the beauty of your yard, there are some varieties that are not suitable for the same. Here’s more about the trees you should avoid planting in your yard.
Though it may seem a cheaper option to plant volunteer tress from your neighbor’s garden in your yard, these can actually cost you a lot more in the long run. Planting unidentified trees in your yard is a strict no-no.
If you are determined to convert your backyard into a beautiful garden, with tall trees and tiny flower plants, then you should know which tree varieties are good, and which varieties can cause harm. Before deciding the varieties and locations of the trees, make sure you have enough knowledge about the varieties you are going to plant. Some trees are just bad for backyards, and can cause potential health hazards, to not only your yard, but your house and family members as well. Fast-growing trees are usually the first choice for homeowners who want to plant trees, but these are not necessarily the best choice. Their roots sprout fast and tend to encompass a major area around the house.
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Although trees are one of the most beautiful assets on your property, there are certain downsides to their plantation. If you’re able to overcome those by avoiding a few varieties, you will have a beautiful green area around the house, which will not only impress prospective property buyers (if you wish to sell your property) in the future, but will add beauty to your home.
It is one of the fastest-growing trees that provides cool shade. However, due to its fast growth, the wood becomes brittle and weak, which ultimately becomes susceptible to breakage during severe storms. It has a shallow rooting system, which penetrates sewage pipelines, and cracks driveways and walkways. Also, it absorbs the moisture from the soil at a faster rate, leaving it dry and unsuitable for a lawn. Therefore, because of the nuisance it causes around the place, silver maple is considered a ‘trash tree’, and is the least desired variety by property owners.
It is considered to be a wet tree, hence, cottonwood trees are planted along wet river banks for timber production. However, due to this characteristic, the cottonwood tends to rot very easily and quickly. The leaves of the cottonwood are very large and diamond-shaped. They have some unique characteristics, which attract insects towards the tree. These insects destroy the leaves, the wood, and eventually the entire tree. To prevent these problems, you may have to invest a lot of time and money. It is also a fast-growing tree, which results in brittle, weak wood, that can break easily during a storm. High-bred varieties have a short lifespan, and die at the age of 25-35 years. This results in an expensive removal of the tree, offering it the status of ‘money tree’ in the tree removal business.
The American Elm, of all elm varieties, is the most long-lived tree, with a lifespan of around 300-400 years. Being a strong and stable variety, the American elm is not prone to failure. Due to these qualities, many property owners want to grow this elm variety on their land. However, there are a few serious disadvantages of owning this tree, and many property owners regret planting it when they suffer from an expensive removal of the tree. The elm bark beetle dwells on the elm tree, thereby infecting it with the Dutch Elm Disease due to bacterial growth in the wood. Other elm varieties also harbor the beetles, but do not get infected by the disease. Furthermore, the American elm has a shallow root system, which invades sewage pipelines and foundations. Hence, they should never be planted close to walkways and driveways.
As is the case with other tree varieties mentioned here, the willow also grows at a rapid rate, thereby producing brittle wood. It requires a lot of water, and when there is scarcity of water, the roots reach out to other resources like sewage pipelines and other underground sources. The smallest storm may fill your yard with small, and even large, broken branches due to the weakness of the wood, costing you large amounts for its maintenance.
It has a unique characteristic, that is not only harmful for the land of your yard, but also for the plants thriving near its root zone. The black walnut tree fills its roots, buds, leaves, and the stem with the juglone toxin to create a suitable environment for its growth. The toxin from the roots seep into the soil and affect the roots of companion trees. These trees then start turning yellow and die eventually. Hence, to prevent other trees from a bad neighborhood, avoid planting a black walnut tree in your yard.
❑ Quaking Aspen
❑ Mountain Cedar
❑ Hybrid Poplars
❑ Leyland Cypress
❑ Bradford Pear
Planting trees around the house is beneficial because they provide shade, decrease the air temperature by almost 20 degrees, filter the air by reducing dust, and reduce the rate of evaporation. However, all trees may not satisfy your needs through their lifetime, hence, avoid planting the above-mentioned trees in your backyard.
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