Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Red Blossoms of Silver Maple

Acer saccharinum, water maple, soft maple



Silver maple flowers
Flower of silver maple


Silver maple is one of the first trees to bloom in springtime. Its bright red blossoms are small, but they are a welcome spark of color in the landscape.

The flower buds and flowers of the silver maple are eaten by squirrels in early spring when food is scarce.

Silver maple in bloom
Silver maple blossoms
The silver maple's seeds are the largest of all the maple seeds, and are an important food source for squirrels as well as a large number of songbirds, gamebirds, and wild animals . Even bears, deer, elk, moose, and mountain sheep will feast on silver maple seeds. The seeds appear in spring at about the same time the leaves do.

In nature, the silver maple often chooses to grow in moist bottom lands or at the edges of rivers and lakes. In Kentucky it may be found growing with willows, sycamores, hackberries, cottonwoods and river birch.

The silver maple in the photo below is growing near Kentucky Lake in western Kentucky. In this location, the tree probably stands in water occasionally, but the silver maple can survive some flooding.

Silver maples are often sold in garden centers as a fast-growing shade tree. They are prone to storm damage because of their weak, brittle branches, and they are a short-lived tree that will mature at 50 to 75 years and slip into decline soon thereafter. The silver maple is well-known for clogging drains with its water-seeking roots.

Think carefully about where you want to plant this tree! We have three silver maples near our house, planted by a former owner. We've seen some severe storm damage in them several times. Fortunately -- so far! -- none of the large limbs have hit the house.

One of the trees is very large and probably at full maturity. When its health begins to decline (which will be soon,) we will be forced to remove it because of its proximity to the house.

Silver maple at lake edge
Silver maple flowering at Kentucky Lake, near Fenton

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Photos and text copyright © 2006-2010 by Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Do not republish without written permission. My e-mail address is gnetz51@gmail.com