Silver Maple

Acer saccharinum
Aceraceae (maples)

A medium to large tree with a rounded crown and slender, spreading branches.

Leaves simple, opposite, 4–7 inches long, broadly triangular, 5-lobed; lobes deep, narrow, pointed at the tip, middle lobe taking up more than ½ the length of the complete leaf, narrowed at the base, margins toothed, base of lobes (sinuses) V-shaped; upper surface of leaf pale green, undersurface silvery white (hence the name). Leaves turn yellow in autumn.

Bark smooth, light gray, later breaking into long, thin plates and ridges.

Twigs slender, brittle, shiny, reddish-brown, producing a disagreeable odor when bruised or broken; bud at tip is blunt.

Flowers January–April, in clusters, male and female flowers borne on the same tree, appearing before the leaves, lacking petals. This is the earliest of our maples to flower in the spring.

Fruits April–June, on slender, drooping stalks; samaras (winged seeds) reddish- to yellowish-brown, in pairs, each wing 1½–2 inches long; usually numerous.

Height: to 100 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Under natural conditions, silver maple is a bottomland tree, growing in moist places. Because of its rapid growth, it appeals to people wanting a large shade tree in a relatively short amount of time. Unfortunately, it has rather soft wood and easily loses limbs in strong winds and in ice storms. If you are thinking of planting it, plant some slower-growing trees (such as oaks) at the same time, so that when the silver maples die, the other trees will be well-established.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Human connections: 
The wood is used for furniture, veneer, pulp, boxes and crates. This riverbank tree is good for preventing erosion. Although landscape architects disdain it, silver maple at any age possesses a firm, graceful look of comfort and establishment, and is worth appreciating on its own terms.
Ecosystem connections: 
The abundant seeds are eaten by songbirds, squirrels and other animals. When the larger branches and trunk are hollowed out by heart-rot, raccoons and squirrels make dens in the tree. Fast-growing, soft-wooded "trash trees" like silver maple are usually the best stream bank stabilizers.
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