Many different species of maple trees exist, a majority of which are found growing throughout North America. The silver maple tree (Acer saccharinum) is mostly distributed throughout the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. Silver maples are typically grown as shade tree in landscapes and are prized for their attractive leaves. The silver maple can also grow in a wide range of soil types and environmental conditions. Silver maple trees can tolerate compacted, poor soils, hot and dry climates, urban conditions and even air pollution.
Identify the silver maple tree by its size and canopy shape. The silver maple reaches 50 to 80 feet in height and has a 35- to 50-foot-wide, vase-shaped canopy.
Study the leaves to identify a silver maple tree. The silver maple’s leaves are green on the upper surfaces, silvery on the undersides, 3 to 6 inches long and wide, and deeply lobed, with five separate lobes. The leaves are arranged opposite each other in pairs.
Study the fruits to identify silver maples, which are double-winged and V-shaped. These maple trees produce 1- to 2-inch-long, elongated fruits that are green to brownish in color and mature in spring.
Look at the flowers to spot silver maple trees. The flowers are yellowish-red and bloom during early to mid-March.
Identify the silver maple by its bark, which is silvery-gray when young. As the silver maple tree ages, the bark develops thin, scaly plates on its trunk with a reddish tint to the scales.
- Also notice the tree's growth habit to identify the silver maple. Silver maple trees are extremely fast-growing and have vigorous, spreading roots that can easily damage sidewalks, foundations, driveways and sewer or septic lines.
- Don't mistake the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) with the silver maple, both of which have similarly lobed leaves with paler undersides. Unlike silver maple trees, the sugar maple's horseshoe-shaped, double-winged fruits mature in fall. A distinguishing feature of silver maples is that the twigs emit a foul or fetid odor when the bark is bruised or scraped.