Maple trees are found growing all over the world. Valued for its wood, sap and shade, the maple is commonly used as an ornamental tree by homeowners and businesses. Fall brings out the true beauty of maple trees as the landscape becomes decorated with their vibrant shades of gold, red, orange, and yellow. There are dozens of species of the maple tree and they come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
The Eastern United States and parts of Canada are home to the red maple (Acer rubrum). The fast-growing red maple is a medium-to-large sized tree that reaches heights of 40 to 70 feet. Leaves are 2 to 4 inches long, have three to five lobes and are medium green on top with a grayish-green underside. According to the University of Connecticut, the red maple is one of the first trees to change color in the fall. Its leaves become stunning shades of red and burgundy. Red maples thrive in full sun and will adapt to almost any soil condition although they prefer moist, acidic soils. The red maple is an excellent shade tree that is well suited for parks, campuses and the backyards of homes.
A native of the Eastern United States and Southern Canada, the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) prefers cool, moist growing conditions. Sugar maples normally reach heights of approximately 60 feet. They become larger when planted in areas with favorable growing conditions. The sugar maple does not tolerate excessive heat or drought. The trees thrive in partial shade to full sun and require well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Foliage of the sugar maple is medium-to-dark green, have three to five lobes and are nearly 5 inches long. Fall coloring ranges from bright yellows, oranges, and reds. The sugar maple is not an ideal street tree and is better used as an ornamental shade tree.
Commonly found growing along riverbanks and the edges of streams, the silver maple (Acer saccharinum L.) is native to the Eastern United States and parts of Southern Canada. The rapid-growing silver maple has a long life expectancy, often living 130 years or longer. Silver maple trees thrive in moist, well-drained soils and require full-to-partial sun. The leaves of the silver maple are 2 to 5 inches long, have light green tops, silvery-white undersides and turn shades of yellow in the fall. The silver maple reaches heights well above 100 feet and has long slender branches. Used mostly as an ornamental tree for lawns, silver maples also provide an important food source for beavers and squirrels.
Reaching heights of 50 to 100 feet, the bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) is found growing in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Southwest British Columbia. Due to the bark's high moisture content, the trunk and branches are often covered with moss and ferns. According to Oregon State University, the shiny, dark green leaves of the bigleaf maple are 7 to 12 inches wide, making them the largest leaves found on any maple tree. Foliage turns bright shades of gold and yellow in the autumn months. The bigleaf maple is mostly used an ornamental shade tree.