The silver maple (Acer saccharinum) usually serves as an ornamental tree. When mature, it stands up to 60 feet high and spreads about 80 feet wide in open areas. Located in most of the eastern United States, a silver maple tree may live for over 100 years. It's also commonly called soft maple, river maple, water maple, white maple and swamp maple.
The silver maple tree can grow in a wide range of soils with good drainage and at various moisture levels, as long as the soil's pH doesn't fall below 4.0. It likes full sun and prefers wetland areas (such as swamps, lake and stream edges and riverbanks) in USDA hardiness zones three to nine.
Red, yellow or orange flowers on the silver maple grow as early as mid-winter. Sprouting from twigs, these flowers are either fully or partially male or female. If most are female, then the tree will produce lots of fruit in some spring seasons.
The fruits (samaras) hang in paired clusters in the springtime. Each has a thick seed attached to a curved or straight wing. When they're mature, the samaras measure two inches long each. They change from a green or rose color to yellow or reddish-brown and fall from the tree in mid- to late spring, spinning like propellers as they lower to the ground.
Each leaf is dark green on top and has a silvery underside and five lobes with toothy edges. The long petioles on which the leaves grow allow the leaves to easily flip in a breeze, showing off the silvery bottoms. In the fall season, these leaves turn a chartreuse color and are sometimes tinged with red, brown and gold.
Twigs & Bark
The twigs start off as reddish-brown but then turn a silver gray in their second year. When broken apart, they release a rank odor. The smooth bark of a young tree displays a silvery color that eventually produces rough scales that curl skyward, giving the plant a haggard look. The bark of a mature tree has an orange interior and turns grayish-brown on the exterior.