Silver Maple

Acer saccharinum L. – Sapindaceae – soapberry family

Also called water maples, silver maples are probably the most abundant large parkage trees in Albion.  They are the first maples in our area to flower.  Typically, the winter buds open to reveal red to brownish flower clusters in mid March.  If we get a few unseasonably warm days, the buds can begin to open in early March, or even late February, but these flowers often get damaged by a return to cold.  Red maples, which tend to have redder flowers, begin to bloom about a week or two after silver maples and their flowering periods overlap.

Silver maples and red maples apparently hybridize commonly in the wet woodlots and forests near Albion – at least a lot of intermediates occur in Brandt Woods and Bangham Road Woods.  Many of our silver maple street trees look a bit like red maples in leaf form and vice-versa.  In our study, we have made no attempt to identify and recognize hybrids.  Something that looks 51% like a silver maple has been recorded as such.  Silver maples tend to have much rougher, longitudinally plated bark than red maples.  The red maples currently chosen for planting as street trees often have smooth trunks, especially when young.  Larger red maples may have roughness to the lower trunk, but it is not longitudinal; also red maples tend to smoother upper branches than silver maples.  The leaf blade of a silver maple is generally more deeply lobed than that of a red maple, and the edges of the largest terminal lobe diverge outward in overall shape.  A typical red maple has a less divided leaf blade with the edges of its largest terminal lobe converging inward to the tip.

A monster of a silver maple measuring 163 cm  (64.5 inches) in diameter is found in the 700 block of W Erie Street on the N side of the street.