Introduction to Maple Tree
Maple trees are a family of 128 species and a couple of thousands of other varieties. Acer is the genus of the Maple trees belonging to the Sapindaceae/Aceraceae family. Most of the species of Maple trees are native to Asia. Other than Asia, Maple trees are also found in Europe, Northern Africa, and North America.
The Maple tree is an official national tree of Canada and the leaf of the Maple tree is symbolised on the Canadian national flag. Maple is considered a symbol of strength and endurance.
Maple trees are known for Maple syrup and durable hardwood for the furniture. These trees are mostly grown for the shades due to their large crown size. They show a variety of fall colours from species to species including red, orange, yellow, brown et cetera and even some species leaves show several of these colours at once.
Super Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Maple trees are Deciduous woody plants varying in the range of size. Some southern Asia and the Mediterranean region species of Maple trees are evergreens
- They can grow up to a height of 10 to 15 m.
- Maple trees require a good amount of sunlight for their growth although they can tolerate shade. They can also grow in a drought-like condition.
- Leaves of Maple Trees are Palmate. They are mostly lobed leaves but some Maple trees have leaves distinguished into leaflets having 3-9 veins.
- The arrangement of leaves is opposite on the twig.
- They contain winged fruits/seeds also called as Samaras, maple keys, polynomes, helicopter or whirlybirds due to their winged shape.
- Maple trees can survive up to 300 years under favourable atmospheric conditions.
Root System of Maple Trees
The Maple trees have a large variety in their roots. Some trees have compact roots while some have spreading roots, some trees have strong while others have weak roots. Some Maple trees have deep taproots while some have roots thriving near the surface.
Most of the Maple trees have roots as deep as 12 to 18 inches from the soil surface and spreading up to a distance of 25 ft. As the tree grows in size, these roots sometimes come out of the surface. The roots present near the surface can also cause damage to the concrete sidewalks, porches and nearby buildings.
The roots of the Silver Maple tree are shallow, intrusive and strong. So they are easily exposed out of the surface after some years and have the potential to break through the sidewalks and other nearby materials. Therefore it is recommended to keep a distance between Maple trees and the building materials. Comparatively, the root system of Norway Maple trees is weak. Although they are also present near the surface, they can not cause much damage.
Types of Maple trees
There are around 100 species of Maple trees all over the world. Maple is native to Asia but some of its species are naturally found in North America, Europe and North Africa. Maple trees can be easily distinguished from other trees with the unique shape of their leaves. The leaves of a Maple tree contain five points or finger-like projections. These projections are same in number in almost all species of the Maple. Different species of Maple show different fall colour which is interesting to observe. It is not possible to enlist all the species of the Maple trees but some of the most common house or garden centred Maple trees are listed below.
Red Maple trees are the most common and popular of all the Maple species. These trees are familiar to eastern and central northern America. The name of this tree is based upon the colour of their leaves and stem during winter and fall. The green coloured stem and leaves turn dark red during the winter season. Even the fruits of these trees are red.
scientific name- Acer rubrum
Common names- red maple, swamp, water, soft maple
- The Red Maple trees grow up to a height of 30 to 40 m
- Red Maple can thrive in a wide range of soil condition. It is found in swampy soil, clayey soil, acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam, well-drained and even in poor dry soil. It prefers wet soil conditions.
- It grows at a medium to fast pace.
- The leaves of Red Maple are 2-3 cm long having 3 to 5 lobes each.
The Japanese Maple tree has a beautiful variety of leaf shapes and colours due to which it is introduced in many countries but originally it is native to China, Japan, Eastern Mongolia and Korea.
Scientific name- Acer palmatum
Common names- Red Emperor Maple, Smooth Japanese Maple, Palmate Maple, Japanese Maple.
- Japanese Maple grows up to a height of 25 to 30 ft.
- It prefers well-drained and rich soil. Japanese Maple trees are shade tolerant.
- They can not survive in drought-like conditions, unlike most Maple trees.
- Leave of Japanese Maple is palmate and lobed with 4-6 cm long and wide. They have 4 to 9 pointed lobes.
Norway Maple trees are considered hardy and vigorous growing trees that can withstand a lot. since they’re usually planted near the roads for shade, these trees have to go through not only car fumes and heat but also the road salt affecting its roots. Norway Maple trees are native to eastern and central Europe and western Asia.
Scientific Name- Acer platanoides
Common name- Norway maple
- They can grow up to a height of 20 to 30 m (60-100 ft).
- Roots of the Norway Maple grow closer to the ground level.
- The bark of this tree is grey-brown with shallow grooves.
- Norway Maple trees prefer well-drained and moist soil.
- It is tolerant to acidic and alkaline soil along with drought condition.
Sugar Maple, as the name depicts, are known for their tastiest Maple syrups. The Sugar Maple trees have beautiful fall colour, turning their leaves into bright orange, yellow and red. They are also used as a shade plant due to their large crown size.
Scientific name- Acer saccharum
Common names- sugar maple, rock maple
- It is the tallest known Maple tree with a height of 45m (148 ft).
- The Sugar Maple tree is Deciduous
- It requires full to partial sunlight.
- The soil should be well-drained and it requires frequent watering as well.
The silver Maple tree is the most commonly found Maple in the United States. It is native to eastern and central United States and southeastern Canada. The silver Maple tree has delicate leaves with typical five pointed lobes. It got its name from the silvery sparkle of the leaves when they’re blown away in the wind.
Scientific name- Acer saccharinum
Common names- Silver Maple, Creek Maple, Silverleaf maple, Soft Maple, Large Maple, Water Maple, Swamp Maple, White Maple
- This Maple tree prefers moist soil and can tolerate flood-prone areas.
- Silver Maple tree can grow up to a height of 15–25 m (49–82 ft).
- Leaves are palmate and 8–16 cm long.
- They’re deciduous and their silver-green foliage turns into the intense green during fall.
- The roots of Silver Maple trees are strong and present near the surface while the wood is weak.
Uses of Maple Trees
- Maple trees are best known for the Maple syrup which is produced from boiling the Maple sap. A Maple tree needs to be of 30 years of age before it is suitable for making Maple syrup. This syrup is rich in minerals and vitamins.
- The wood of Maple tree is used in making many musical instruments like violins, viola, guitars and drums.
- Other than musical instruments, Maple tree wood is also used for the formation of furniture, baseball bats, bowling pins and butcher’s blocks.
- Maple wood (dried) is also used as firewood and to form charcoal.
- The wood of the Maple tree is also used to make paper.
- Maple trees are widely grown as a shade tree.