All About Silver Maple Trees

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.