Maple Trees in Maryland: Identifying Common Species

The 6 types of maple trees in Maryland are the Red Maple, Silver Maple, Sugar Maple, Box Elder, Striped Maple, and Mountain Maple.

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

The silver maple is a large, fast-growing deciduous tree that is native to eastern North America. In Maryland, it can be found statewide in lowlands and along streams and river valleys.

This tree has a broad, rounded crown and typically reaches 50-80 feet tall. The bark on young trees is smooth and silvery-gray, which gives the silver maple its name.

On older trees the bark becomes rough and furrowed.

The leaves of the silver maple are simple and palmately lobed with 5 lobes. They are green on the upper surface and silvery-white underneath.

The fall color is usually a pale yellow. The flowers are small and greenish-yellow, blooming in early spring before the leaves emerge.

The fruit are paired samaras with elongated, diverging wings.

Silver maple tolerates pollution and compacted soil quite well, so it is commonly planted as a street tree in urban areas.

It also provides shade and its aggressive roots help reduce soil erosion along stream banks.

However, its weak wood makes it prone to damage during storms. Overall, the silver maple grows quickly and adds aesthetic value in Maryland landscapes.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

The red maple is one of the most abundant and widespread deciduous trees in eastern North America. In Maryland, it grows statewide but reaches its largest size in the Coastal Plain region.

This medium-sized tree typically reaches 60-90 feet tall with an oval rounded crown.

The bark of the red maple is light gray and smooth on young trees. As it matures, the bark breaks up into thin, flaky plates with a red-brown color underneath.

The leaves are simple and palmately lobed, with 3-5 lobes. In autumn they turn a bright red to yellow-orange.

Red maple is named for its red flowers, fruits, twigs and buds.

Red maple occurs in a wide range of habitats in Maryland, including swamps, floodplains, and upland slopes.

It is shade tolerant so it can grow as an understory tree or in the open.

Red maple is fast growing when young but growth slows with age. The wood is used for pulpwood and low-grade lumber. Red maple is also a popular landscape tree in Maryland, valued for its fall color.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

The sugar maple is a large, deciduous tree known for its brilliant fall color and sap that is used to produce maple syrup.

In Maryland, sugar maples are more common at higher elevations in the western part of the state within the Allegheny Plateau.

This tree can reach 80 to 115 feet in height with a rounded oval crown.

The bark of the sugar maple is grayish-brown and furrowed into long, narrow ridges that gives it a plated appearance.

The leaves are simple and palmately veined, with 5 lobes and a few pointed teeth along the edges.

The fall color is striking, ranging from bright yellow to fiery orange. Small greenish-yellow flowers appear in spring before the leaves emerge.

The sugar maple grows best in deep, moist, well-drained soils. It prefers part shade but can thrive in full sun.

Sugar maple trees are tapped in early spring by drilling into the trunk and collecting the sap, which is boiled down to produce maple syrup.

The sap generally flows best on warm days after freezing nights. The wood is also highly valued for furniture, flooring, musical instruments and sports equipment.

Overall, the sugar maple is an important cultural, ecological and economic species in Maryland.

Other Maple Species

In addition to the three main maple species already discussed, there are a few other maple trees that grow in Maryland forests:

  • Boxelder (Acer negundo): A small, short-lived maple with compound leaves and spreading crown. It grows in floodplains and disturbed areas.
  • Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum): A small understory tree with green bark with white stripes. It grows at high elevations.
  • Mountain Maple (Acer spicatum): A shrub or small tree with 3-lobed leaves. It is found at high elevations.

While they are less common, these maple species add diversity to Maryland’s forests and provide food and habitat for wildlife.

Exploring nature parks and hikes in western Maryland offer opportunities to discover these other maple tree species.

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