How To Identify Maple Trees: Facts About Maple Tree Types

The following are facts about different kinds of maple trees.

1) There are five species of maple trees (Acer macrophyllum, Acer rubrum, A.

virginiana, A. alba and A. lutea).

All these species have their own characteristics and they all grow in North America from Canada to Florida. They differ in size, shape and coloration.

2) There are two subspecies of the genus Acer.

One of them is known as A. macrophyllum var. macrophylla and it grows in New England and Maine; the other one is called A.

macrophyllum var. rubrum and it grows in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maryland; both species have similar appearance but differ in size, shape and coloration.

3) The common name “maple” refers to the woody stems of these trees.

However, there are many varieties of maple trees with different shapes and sizes. Some of them resemble the familiar oak tree while others look like ash or hickory trees.

4) Most of the maple trees are conifers which means they produce cones during their life cycle.

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These cones contain seeds that mature into new shoots after some time.

5) In the spring, maple trees look very beautiful with their yellow, orange and red shades.

The same hues appear in the leaves in autumn.

6) The typical maple tree’s bark is thin, smooth and grayish brown in color.

That’s why it is sometimes difficult to identify some of the types of maples. The leaf veins are parallel and straight and the leaves are usually 5-lobed (unless they’ve been damaged).

7) The range and variety of colors displayed by the leaves is quite large.

In the spring they are green, then turn yellow in the summer, orange in the fall and red in the winter. Each year a new layer of wood is laid down beneath the bark and a layer of sapwood develops. This makes it easy to age a tree: the closer to center of the tree, the younger it is.

8) The established theory is that the Native Americans were the first to use a sap drawn from the sugar maple as a syrup.

This history makes them a preferred species for ornamental use in America and in some parts of Canada.

9) Sugar made from the sap of maples has always been a popular treat.

The early American colonists made as much as they could every year because it was easy to do and they had a good supply of trees everywhere.

10) There are three main types of sugar maples. These are known as: the eastern or black maple (Acer nigrum); the orange or hard maple (Acer dasyphyllum) and the soft or western maple (Acer saccharinum). The first is found from southern Maine to the far south of Canada.

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The second grows mainly in the central part of Canada. The third is common in the west of Canada and in Alaska.

11) In the 19th century, settlers cleared forests to build new farms and towns in many parts of North America. This was devastating for the native population of maples. They found themselves surrounded by fields and pastures full of stumps.

It became hard to get food. The trees had been their friends and protectors for a very long time. As a result, they turned to the lumber industry for more business. This led to rapid deforestation in many regions of the continent.

12) The wood of maples is hard and heavy. It is used for furniture, kitchen cabinets and other items that are made from wood. In addition, it burns slowly and steadily when added to a fire.

This is why it is sometimes used as firewood.

13) The American and Canadian governments are taking steps to preserve the remaining forests and to prevent logging in sensitive areas. They have already achieved some success but there is still a long way to go before the problem is solved.

14) March 1st is a special day for all the trees in North America. They celebrate it because they received official protection against harm or destruction by the U.S.

government on that day in 1872. They call it “National Save the Trees Day”.

15) The wood of maples is also used in the manufacture of musical instruments such as guitars and pianos. The wood of some types of maple is very hard, so it can be polished to a fine finish and used to make high quality furniture.

16) The leaves, branches and bark of all species of maple contain valuable chemical ingredients called saponins.

Sources & references used in this article:

Age, allocation and availability of nonstructural carbon in mature red maple trees by MS Carbone, CI Czimczik, TF Keenan… – New …, 2013 – Wiley Online Library

The quantitative analysis of sugar maple tree rings by LASER ablation in conjunction with ICP‐MS by SA Watmough, TC Hutchinson… – Journal of environmental …, 1998 – Wiley Online Library

Hydraulic lift and water use by plants: implications for water balance, performance and plant-plant interactions by TE Dawson – Oecologia, 1993 – Springer

Effects of acidic deposition and soil acidification on sugar maple trees in the Adirondack Mountains, New York by TJ Sullivan, GB Lawrence, SW Bailey… – … science & technology, 2013 – ACS Publications

Environmental control of whole-plant transpiration, canopy conductance and estimates of the decoupling coefficient for large red maple trees by SD Wullschleger, KB Wilson, PJ Hanson – Agricultural and Forest …, 2000 – Elsevier

Identification of the bacterial community of maple sap by using amplified ribosomal DNA (rDNA) restriction analysis and rDNA sequencing by L Lagacé, M Pitre, M Jacques… – Applied and environmental …, 2004 – Am Soc Microbiol

The spatial pattern of air seeding thresholds in mature sugar maple trees by B Choat, EC Lahr, PJ Melcher… – Plant, Cell & …, 2005 – Wiley Online Library

Radial growth trends of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) in an Allegheny northern hardwood forest affected by beech bark disease by LM DiGregorio, ME Krasny, TJ Fahey – Journal of the Torrey Botanical …, 1999 – JSTOR

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