Silver maple isn't as widely planted in comparison to other types of Maple such as Norway maple or Field maple. This is mainly due to the branches and larger limbs being more easily shed in poor weather, as such they are rarely planted in public parks or green spaces that are in close proximity to people, property or cars. Despite this Silver maple when allowed to grow to a decent size are fantastic trees and have many interesting characteristics. It was introduced into the UK in 1725 by Sir Charles Wagner and was catalogued by Linnaeus in 1753. In it's native habitat (eastern and central USA and south eastern Canada) it is often found growing in open sunlight along creeks and waterways. Like most maple trees they create thousands of the iconic helicopter seeds as well as a heavy amount of leaf fall. These can easily cover a lawn / pavement as well as block nearby drains so would make pretty terrible street trees. They are best suited in a large open green space away from busy foot paths.
It is a fairly fast growing deciduous tree and usually grows to heights of up to 25m although in some cases heights of up to 35m have been recorded. Quite often they will grow as multi-stemmed trees rather than a large single and central stem (trunk). The bark on mature trees is grey and quite shaggy in appearance. Up close it looks like large vertical sections will just peel off. Due to the nature of the bark being quite gappy and open it makes for a great place for Invertebrates and spiders to live. The buds are quite rounded and almost squashed compared to other Maple trees but are still in opposite pairs.
The bark on mature trees is grey and quite shaggy in appearance
The buds are quite rounded and arranged in opposite pairs
The leaves are simple and palmately veined with 5 pointed lobes which have deep angular notches. They are usually 8–16 cm long and 6–12 cm wide and are held on by petioles of around 5–12 cm in length. Even on a gentle breeze the leaves will flutter quite a lot and on a very windy day it is particularly stunning. The leaves begin to show in late March to mid April and will be a bright green on the top and a silvery / green colour on the underneath. During the Autumn most of the leaves will turn a dull yellow colour and the shed leaves on the ground soon turn brown. In comparison to Japanese Maple or some of the more unusual cultivars of Norway maple the Silver maple's Autumn show isn't as striking.
It is a deciduous tree and can reach heights of up to 25m
The pistils of the young female flowers are like small fuzzy yellow strands of spaghetti. They turn pink as they mature
The flowers are easily overlooked and mistaken for young leaves in the early Spring. Depending on how hard or soft the Winter has been the flowers can be as early as January but in most cases will be around February to March. The flowers are out for a fair amount of time and given the time of year when nectar and pollen is in short supply they are very much welcomed by bees and other pollinators. More often than not Silver maple is dioecious so the flowers are either all male or female. However, they can also be monoecious so both male and female flowers can be found on the same tree but different parts. Also, an all male tree can be all female the next year or vice versa - nobody really knows why they do this - which makes this an even more fascinating tree. The The flowers are in small dense clusters and will be green/ yellow for the male and pink for the female flowers. The flowers are wind pollinated.
The leaves are simple and palmately veined with 5 pointed lobes which have deep angular notches
The petioles (leaf stalks) are around 5–12 cm in length