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Agriculture and Natural Resources

Ohio State University Extension

Maple Tree ID

There are thirteen native maple species in North America (Table 3-1). While most of these species are probably tapped to some extent, at least by hobbyists, sugar and black maple, along with red maple (Acer rubrum), provide most of the commercial sap. A fourth maple species, silver maple (Acer saccharinum), is sometimes tapped, particularly in roadside operations, and is often confused with red maple. (Chapter 3 North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual)

Table 3.1. Maple species native to the United States.
Species Common Name Species Scientific Name General Geographic Distribution
Sugar Maple Acer saccharum Northeast United States & Southern Canada
Black Maple Acer nigrum Northeast United States & Southeast Canada
Red Maple Acer rubrum Eastern United States & Southeast Canada
Silver Maple Acer saccharinum Eastern United States & Southeast Canada
Boxelder Acer negundo Eastern & Central United States & Canada
Mountain Maple Acer spicatum Northeast United States & Southeast Canada
Striped Maple Acer pensylvanicum Northeast United States & Southeast Canada
Bigleaf Maple Acer macrophyllum Pacific Coast United States & Canada
Chalk Maple Acer leucoderme Southeast United States
Canyon Maple Acer grandidentatum U.S. Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountain Maple Acer glabrum Western United States
Vine Maple Acer circinatum Pacific Coast of United States & Canada
Florida Maple Acer barbatum Southeast United States Coastal Plain & Piedmont

 


 


Table 3.2. Identifying Characteristics of Sugar, Black, Red and Silver Maple.
Species Leaf Bark Twig Fruit
Sugar Maple 3-5 inches wide; 5lobed (rarely 3-lobed); bright green upper surface and a paler green lower surface; leaf margin without fine teeth (compare with red and silver maple). Young trees up to 4-8 inches with smooth gray bark. Older trees developing furrows and ultimately long, irregular, thick vertical plates that appear to peal from the trunk in a vertical direction. A somewhat shiny, brownish, slender, relatively smooth twig with 1/4 - 3/8 inch long sharply pointed terminal bud. Horseshoe-shaped double-winged fruit with parallel or slightly divergent wings. Winged seed approximately 1" long. Fruits mature in fall.
Black Maple Similar to sugar maple but usually 3-lobed (sometimes five); often appears to be drooping; often with a thicker leaf and lear stem (petiole) than sugar maple; usually with two winglike or leaflike growths at the base of the petiole (stipules). Similar to sugar maple but usually darker and more deeply grooved or furrowed. Similar to sugar maple but twig surface with small warty growths (lenticels, which are not raised much above the bark surface in sugar maple) and often more hairy buds. Similar to sugar maple with, perhaps, a slightly larger seed.
Red Maple 2-6 inches wide; 3lobed (occasionally weakly 5-lobed); sharply V-shaped sinuses; small sharp teeth along margin. Mature leaves have a whitish appearing underside. Young trees up to 4-8 inches with a smooth light gray bark, developing into gray or black ridges and ultimately narrow scaly plates. Slender, shiny, usually reddish in color; terminal buds 1/8 - 1/4 inch long, blunt, red; odorless if bark bruised or scraped. V-shaped, double-winged fruit about 1/2 - 1 inch long. Fruit matures in spring.
Silver Maple 5-7 inches wide; deeply clefted; 5-lobed with the sides of the terminal lobe diverging toward the tip; light green upper surface and a silvery white underside; leaf margin with fine teeth (but not the inner edges of the sinuses). Silvery gray on young trees breaking into long thin scaly plates that give the trunks of older trees a very shaggy appearance. Considerable red is seen in bark pattern as scales develop. Similar to red maple but bruised or scraped bark has a very fetid or foul odor. V-shaped, double-winged fruit 1 1/2 - 2 inches long, with widely divergent wings. One of two seeds present is often poorly developed or aborted. Fruit matures in spring.