Maple trees are North America’s favorite tree for fall color and shade. Find facts and information on different types of Maple trees to find out which maple tree is best for your yard. You will find that there are many varieties of quality maples for you to choose from.
Maple Tree Varieties and Facts
Maple trees are in the Acer genus and the family Aceraceae. Maple trees are the ones you hear about with all of the beautiful autumn colors. They are New England’s spectacular autumn stars and the source of delicious maple syrup. The Sugar maple, Acer saccharum, is Canada’s national tree. There is at least one cultivated maple species for every climate but tropical. The larger, slower growing maples produce hard wood that resists cracking and splitting. These long lived trees often have strong horizontal branches that can support swings and hammocks.
One of the most widely planted maples is the colorful red, or swamp maple, Acer Rubrum. It has a rounded form, and grows 40-60’. In early spring, garnet red flower clusters outline the trees branches; later, red leaf buds appear that open a glossy green. The leaves turn a dazzling gold-orange-crimson in early fall and cling to the branches for weeks.
Several types have been bred with tolerances for regional climates, so choose a field-grown specimen from a reliable local nursery. ‘October Glory’ succeeds in warm regions, and ‘Red Sunset’ withstands winter temperatures to −25 degrees.
The massive Sugar maple, Acer Saccharum, color the hills of New England and southern Canada in fall and provide the sap for maple syrup. Sugar maples reach 60-75’, and in the wild, up to 100-120’. They are best grown on large properties and open woodlands. They thrive in Zones 3-8 but seem to prefer the eastern parts of North America. In the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, try cultivars such as ‘Green Mountain’ and the smaller ‘Rocky Mountain Glow’.
The Silver maple, Acer Saccharinum, for Zones 3-9 is sometimes mistaken for the sugar maple. In moist and soil the silver maple grows rapidly to a great height and matures into a superb specimen. Because of it rapid growth, it is often used as a sidewalk tree. Under less than ideal conditions, the silver maple wood is weak, the branches break easily and the tree never realizes its true potential.
Another popular maple for large landscapes in Zones 3-7 is the majestic Norway maple, Acer Platanoides, which reaches 40-90’ high. It has dense foliage and is a lustrous green. The underside of one cultivar, ‘Crimson King’, are moss green, and the leaves’ surface and stems are a shade of maroon so dark that it appears almost black. It makes an eye-catching specimen, even from a distance.
*The very popular Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum, has a separate article all of its own.
For smaller landscapes, one of the loveliest is the 25’ Chinese paperbark maple, Acer Griseum, hardy in Zones 4-8. The fall color is bronze, russet red, or red in warm regions, in cool regions, the color is scarlet. The bark is an enormous asset, mottled in an exquisite combination of cinnamon and forest green.
Vine maples, Acer Circinatum, grow wild in the mainly evergreen coastal forest of the Pacific Northwest. Growing from British Columbia down through northern California is the Tartarian maple, Acer Tataricum, an import from Europe and Western Asia.
Other attractive maples for the home landscape include the amur maple, Acer Ginnala, which thrives in Zones 3-8, and the Chinese striped-bark maple, Acer Davidii, and the nikko maple, Acer Nikoense, in Zones 5-7. For Zones 5, 6, 7, and 8, choose the three flowered maple, Acer Triflorum, or the trident maple, Acer Buergeranum. The field, or hedge maple, Acer Campestre, grows well in Zones 5-9, and the Florida, or Southern sugar maple succeeds Acer Barbatum, or Acer Floridanum, in Zones 7-9.
Growing Maple Trees
Maple tree can be transplanted fairly easy, but it is best to choose young container-grown or balled-and-burlapped trees and plant them in spring. They will flourish in moist but well-drained and somewhat acid soils and require full sun. During dry spells, even mature maples require biweekly watering. Pruning should be done during the trees dormancy period.
Maple Tree Flowers and Fruit
Maple tree flowers have four or five sepals and come in yellow, green, red, or orange. They are usually very small in size, but can make a suberb showing when the entire tree is in bloom. This usually occurs either in early spring, or in late winter, depending on the variety that you have.
The fruit of Maple trees are actually seeds which are known as samaras. They are also refered to as “maple keys” or ‘whirlybirds’. The seeds form in pairs and will each contain a seed that is enclosed in a flat wing of a papery, fibrous tissue that helps it spin through the wind to be deposited at great distances from the original maple tree.
Maple Tree Pests and Diseases
Aphids are a common pest on maple trees, but this can be combated by using a dimethoate spray. The Asian Longhorned Bettle can cause bad infestations in maple trees. Maples are also susceptible to fungal diseases, such as Verticillium wilt, “tar spot”, and Sooty bark disease.