Acer saccharinum (Silver Maple)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Sapindaceae (Soapberry)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:sun; low wet woodlands, floodplains, riverbanks
Bloom season:March - April
Plant height:60 to 100 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: round

[photo of male flowers] Dense, round, reddish flower clusters, about ½ inch across, form on small lateral branchlets at the tips of the previous year's branches in late March to early April, before leaves emerge. Male and female flowers can be on separate trees or on separate branches on the same tree or occasionally within the same flower cluster. For both, clusters have 3 to 6 flowers with 5 obscure sepals and no petals. The males have long, erect stamens.

[photo of female flowers] The females have two bright red, arching styles.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and opposite, the blade up to 6½ inches long and as wide but typically smaller, on a stalk half to as long as the blade. Leaves have 5 palmate lobes with deep sinuses between the upper three, the basal lobes reduced. The upper surface is dark green and smooth, the lower surface much paler with short fine hairs across the surface. Edges are coarsely toothed. Leaves turn yellow in fall.

[photo of trunk] One year old twigs are smooth, brown to reddish, especially right before spring bud break, turning silvery gray like the branches the second year. Older branches and the trunk develop coarse, scaly bark with age that can look quite shaggy and flake off. The trunk can grow to 5 feet in diameter at breast height (dbh). 

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a pair of winged seeds (samara), 1½ to 2 1/3 inch long that matures and shed in May through early summer. The wings form an angle of about 90 degrees.


Silver maple is a large canopy tree that occupies a variety of moist to wet woodland habitats, especially floodplains where it can tolerate extensive periods of flooding and siltation. It is a fast grower and, at one time, more used in urban landscapes where it is still common, though its huge size often dwarfs the landscape and its brittle wood is prone to storm damage. Its annual seed load produces a carpet of seedlings on the forest floor and can be a bane to gardeners in an urban setting. It fall color is a brief, washed out yellow and it is a ample producer of sap for maple syrup in the spring. The leaves of Silver Maple are the most deeply lobed of the Minnesota maples, along with the shaggy bark of mature trees makes it easily distinguishable from most other maples.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Gabriel - South Minneapolis
on: 2015-03-14 17:42:29

Despite their many problems, there's one wonderful thing about silver maples: their flowers are (if I'm not mistaken) the earliest of any native plant. Their branches are fringed in bright red and fuzzy cream right after the snow melts, before the ground is warm enough for the spring ephemerals to bloom and earlier than any other tree or shrub.

Posted by: luciearl - Falcon Heights
on: 2019-08-06 12:27:26

I lived in the same house growing up with a silver maple in the yard. The tree was there when my parents moved into the house in 1954. Sold in 2009, but the tree still remains. A common complaint is the roots that are just below the surface that come popping through the ground. Mowing can be bothersome. But here is the fascinating thing, those big surface roots posed as a little bird bath. Pockets in the roots were hollowed out, holding water after a rain. I'd often see a bird drinking out of them days after the rain.

Posted by: Charles - Near Dennison
on: 2024-03-02 17:32:01

Silver maple blooming March 2, 2024

Posted by: Jamie - Mankato
on: 2024-05-03 23:37:37

I highly recommend trying to make syrup from a silver maple. It has a more woody taste (in a good way) compared to the typical syrup from sugar maples.

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