Maple Trees in Maine: Different Types You’ll Find

The 6 types of maples in Maine are: Sugar Maple, Red Maple, Silver Maple, Box Elder, Striped Maple, and Black Maple.

1. Sugar Maple

The sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is one of the most common and iconic maple trees found in Maine.

Known for its brilliant fall colors ranging from bright yellow to deep burnt orange, the sugar maple puts on a stunning display in the autumn months.

This deciduous tree can grow quite large, reaching heights of 100 feet or more, with a spreading crown that provides excellent shade.

The sugar maple is best known for the sweet sap it produces in early spring, which is collected and boiled down to make delicious maple syrup.

The sap contains a high concentration of sucrose which gives it a sweet flavor.

Maple syrup production is an important industry in Maine, with millions of gallons taps from sugar maples each year.

In addition to maple syrup, the sugar maple has long been valued for its strong and durable wood. The hard lumber is often used for flooring, furniture, baseball bats, and musical instruments.

Sugar maple is also a favorite shade tree due to its oval-shaped canopy that provides cooling shade in the summer months.

Overall, the iconic sugar maple is one of the most useful and beautiful maple trees found throughout the forests of Maine.

Its brilliant fall colors, sweet sap, and hard wood make it a beloved and economically important species.

2. Red Maple

With its distinctive red flowers in spring and brilliant crimson foliage in fall, the red maple (Acer rubrum) is a staple tree of the Maine landscape.

Abundant throughout the state, the red maple thrives in wet areas along streams and rivers.

This moisture loving tree is tolerant of flooding and soggy soils.

The flowers of the red maple appear in late winter to early spring before the leaves emerge.

Red, orange, or sometimes yellow flower clusters bloom from the naked branches, providing a pop of color when most trees are still dormant.

These early blooms are an important source of pollen for bees and other pollinators emerging in early spring.

While the sugar maple may be best known for maple syrup production, the red maple can also be tapped for its sweet sap.

The sap of the red maple contains a lower sugar content than the sugar maple, creating syrup with a more pronounced maple flavor.

Red maple syrup offers a delicious alternative to the more common sugar maple syrup.

In the fall, the green summer leaves of the red maple transform into a brilliant crimson red. This intense foliage provides a striking contrast against evergreens and other trees that turn yellow or orange in autumn.

Red maples brighten the landscape along roads, streams, and across hillsides throughout the fall season.

3. Silver Maple

Reaching towering heights of 100 feet or more, the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is a massive tree that demands attention.

This fast growing species thrives in wet bottomlands and is sometimes planted as a street tree.

With its distinctive silvery-white bark and large lobed leaves, the silver maple is easy to identify.

A relatively short-lived tree compared to other maples, the silver maple grows rapidly when young. New stems often sprout up from the roots, enabling the species to spread into dense thickets.

The extensive root system of the silver maple helps it withstand flooding and wet soil conditions.

In spring, the silver maple blooms with small greenish-yellow flowers that provide pollen for bees before leaf out. The leaves emerge with a distinct silvery underside, giving the foliage a bicolored look.

The leaves turn pale yellow in fall, putting on a golden display.

The lightweight, soft wood of the silver maple is not as strong as that of the sugar maple. However, it has been utilized for boxes, crates, and pulp for paper making.

The fast growth of silver maple also makes it ideal for planting in wet areas to help soak up excess water. Large specimens provide ample shade in summer.

4. Box Elder

With its compound leaves and tolerance of poor soils, the box elder maple (Acer negundo) stands apart from other maple trees in Maine.

This fast growing species can be found along roadsides and open fields. Groups of box elder are often seen growing in thickets as they readily colonize disturbed sites.

Unlike most maple species, the compound leaves of box elder resemble ash trees. Each leaf is comprised of 3-7 leaflets.

The leaflets have coarse teeth around the margins and turn yellow in autumn. Box elder produces drooping clusters of small green flowers in spring which mature into winged seeds known as samaras.

The box elder thrives in moist soils but also displays drout tolerance. It can grow in a variety of conditions from clay soils to sandy areas to calcareous soils.

This adaptability allows the box elder to succeed where many other trees cannot.

Box elder tends to be short lived, growing rapidly when young but becoming susceptible to insects, disease, and storm damage as it ages.

The wood of box elder is relatively soft and is not widely used for lumber. However, it has occasionally been used for low grade furniture, paneling, and pulpwood.

Box elder is also a popular tree for homeowners wanting fast growing shade. It can quickly grow into a medium sized tree providing dappled shade, though structurally it is weaker than many other maples.

5. Striped Maple

Tucked under the canopy of towering maples and oaks grows the diminutive striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum).

Only reaching heights of 10-35 feet, the striped maple is a small understory tree known for its distinctive green and white striped bark.

This unique maple grows as an understory species in shaded hardwood forests across Maine.

In spring, the striped maple displays pendulous clusters of delicate yellow-green flowers. These bell-shaped blooms hang down from long slender stalks.

The flowers mature into winged samaras like other maples, allowing wind dispersal of the seeds.

The foliage of the striped maple is also distinctive. The simple leaves are large and wide, up to 6 inches across. Each leaf has 3 pointed lobes and coarse teeth along the edges.

In fall, the leaves turn a vibrant golden yellow, illuminating the forest floor.

Being a slow growing understory tree, the striped maple seldom exceeds 6 inches in diameter. The sinewy trunk gives rise to multiple slender branches that create an irregular crown.

The greenish bark is adorned with distinctive white vertical stripes, giving the tree its common name.

6. Black Maple

Closely related to the sugar maple, the black maple (Acer nigrum) is also found across forests of Maine.

This large deciduous tree becomes covered in orange and yellow fall foliage, similar to the brilliant colors of its sugar maple cousin.

Though not as common as sugar maple, black maple grows in similar habitats and has comparable uses.

The black maple can be difficult to distinguish from the sugar maple. However, the black maple grows faster and taller, often exceeding heights of 100 feet.

Black maple also has drooping branches compared to the ascending branches of sugar maple. The bark of young trees may appear darker grayish-brown rather than gray, giving rise to the common name for this tree.

Like sugar maple, the black maple has sap that can be tapped to produce maple syrup. The flavor and quality of the syrup is comparable.

The wood also shares the same desirable qualities as sugar maple – hard, dense, and durable. Black maple lumber is commonly used for furniture, flooring, musical instruments, and other specialty wood products.

When found growing together, the black maple and sugar maple will often hybridize. This results in trees with intermediate characteristics.

For many purposes, the two trees are ecologically similar and have overlapping uses. The black maple, though more rare, diversifies and enriches Maine’s beautiful maple forests.

Are Maple Trees Native To Maine?

Yes, maple trees are native to Maine. There are several varieties of maple trees that are native to Maine, including the sugar maple, red maple, silver maple, box elder maple, striped maple, and black maple. These trees are an essential part of the state’s landscape and contribute to the beautiful fall foliage that Maine is known for.

Blog Musings