Wisconsin forests and woods are home to several varieties of the maple tree. Maples produce an abundance of shade, and are valued for their hardwood, sap and beauty. During the fall months, the state of Wisconsin is ablaze with the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of maple foliage. The maple is a cold-hardy tree that has adapted well to the various growing conditions found throughout the state of Wisconsin.
Considered a major forest tree in Wisconsin, the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is one of the largest and most important hardwood trees in the country. Sugar maple trees thrive in fertile, loamy, well-drained soils. Trees are shade-tolerant, but need full sun to properly develop. The sugar maple has medium-to-dark green leaves that are 3 to 6 inches long. Sugar maple trees produce a yellow-green flower that blooms before leaves appear on the tree in early April. Sugar maples are found shading many large backyards and Wisconsin parks. The sugar maple produces sap that is boiled or evaporated into maple syrup.
The rapid-growing, medium-sized Norway maple (Acer platanoides) normally reaches heights of 40 to 60 feet and may be wider than tall when fully grown. Leaves of the Norway maple are dark green and 4 to 7 inches long. The Norway produces a showy, petite, yellow-green flower during the month of April. Norway maple trees are easy to transplant, adapt well to a large variety of soils and require full sun to thrive. Norway maples are tolerant of urban conditions and are often found in parks and lining the streets of Wisconsin. Norway maples are considered an excellent shade tree for homes with large, expansive lawns. The shallow roots of the Norway maple can damage sidewalks and cement patios.
The colorful red maple (Acer rubrum) not only decorates the landscape of Wisconsin with brilliant displays of scarlet and burgundy during the fall months, it also produces beautiful red-and-orange flowers during April and May. The red maple is a medium-sized tree that reaches heights between 40 and 70 feet tall. Summer foliage is medium-green and leaves are 2 to 4 inches long. Red maples thrive in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Although they adapt well to most soil conditions, the red maple will flourish in moist, acidic soils. Red maples are usually found growing on the front lawn of Wisconsin homes, on college campuses and in parks.
Often mistaken for the sugar maple, the black maple tree has a wider leaf that droops more than the sugar maple. The leaves of the black maple are 3 to 6 inches long and are a medium, dull shade of green. Black maples thrive in loamy, moist soils and are found growing along slopes and in lowland ares of the state of Wisconsin. Yellowish-green flowers appear on the black maple during April and hang in small clusters over the leaves. The black maple is a medium-to-tall tree, often reaching heights of 100 feet; it may live to be 200 years old. Like the sugar maple, the black maple is tapped and the sap is used to make maple syrup.