Tree Tuesday: The Maple Tree

Everyone can recognize that classic shape. After all, we see it so much from our friends to the north. But can you distinguish between the 4 common species we see in our area?

Maple trees have a simple, opposite leaf arrangement. Actually, there are only three main families of trees that have OPPOSITE leaf arrangements; maples, ashes and dogwoods. An easy way to remember this is with the acronym: MAD.

I find identifying maples by the leaves the easiest. There is a wide variation of barks with age and even within a species.

The sugar maple (Acer saccharum) leaves are simple, 5 lobed with very few large teeth. The sinuses (division between the lobes) are rounded.

The silver or soft maple (Acer saccharinum) is most common on moist land and along streams. The leaves are 5-lobed and irregularly double-toothed. It sinuses are deep compared to other maples. These leaves look “aggressive” to me.

The Norway maple (Acer plantanoids) was one of the most popular street trees in the 60’s and 70’s. Native to Europe. The leaves are 5 lobed and less symmetrical than the sugar maple. A milky sap pours from the stalk if it is broken.

The leaves of the Red Maple (Acer rubrum) are very roughly toothed with 3-5 shallow lobes. The petiole (stem of leaf) is reddish color with the underside of leaf being whitish.

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