Acer saccharinum

Most distinctive of our native maples with leaves having five sharp lobes and silvery undersides

Acer saccharinum silver maple

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

It is difficult to mistake this maple species for any other in this area. They have five deeply cut lobes and a narrow base for the terminal lobe. The underside of the leaf is a silver-white color. This coloration is easily seen at a distance when the wind blows and exposes the lower leaf surfaces. The silver maple is a tall tree with grayish older bark that tends to flake, leaving brown spots. The reddish twigs and blunt scaled buds are similar to those of the red maple. Broke twigs have an unpleasant odor. The sap is sweet, but less sugary than that of the sugar maple. The leaves can vary from 4 to 8 inches long. The tree normally grows 60-80 feet high, but 120-foot specimens are known. The trunk is normally 1-3 feet thick. The spring flowers are greenish or reddish.

The winged fruit is similar to that of other maples. It is a popular ornamental tree in cities and suburbs, though it must be pruned to prevent the growth of multiple trunks. The roots are known to invade sewer and water lines and can damage sidewalks. It is native to eastern North America but is less common in the far south and southeast. It is adaptable but often found along waterways, which explains its alternate common name water maple. The fall coloration is pale yellow, though the leaves drop fairly quickly after they turn color. The silver maple is a rapidly growing tree and has been proposed as a source for biofuels. The wood can be made into furniture, cabinets, musical instruments, boxes and tool handles. Wood pulp can also be made into paper.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Grows in moist woods, stream banks in alluvial soils. Often in pure stands in floodplains, prefers shade.

Present throughout the state.

Wetland codes

Flowers April to May.

Tree  single trunk that can split; ascending branches and open crown

Flowers  tiny red dangling flowers on a 1-2 inch stalk

Leaves  deeply lobed, normally 5 but can have 7 lobes, with pointed tips; coarsely toothed; opposite, simple; bright green above and silvery-white below; 4-6 inch long

Fruit  pair of green winged seeds (samara), turning to brown and maturing in spring; largest of the native maples 1-2 1⁄2 inch long

Twigs  slender, glossy; green in spring turning brown with age; lower branches with distinct upward curve

Bark  smooth and gray on young trees; brown and furrowed on older trees

Height  75-100 feet

Fall Color  pale yellow to orange

Age  100-125 yrs

S-rank:  S5 (Secure)
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)