Silver Maple: Nuisance Tree or Great for Landscaping?

Updated on December 7, 2010

The Silver Maple tree is one the most common trees of North America and can be an excellent tree for landscaping but it also presents some undesirable characteristics. Its scientific name is Acer saccharinum and like all maple trees has a five pointed leaf and produces a prolific amount of seeds in the early spring.  The seeds grow in a pair of "wings" and when mature, separate and whirl down from the tree on a single "wing". The Silver Maple generally grows 50 to 80 feet tall. A 10 year old sapling will stand approximately 25 feet tall.

Silver Maple at the height of Summer.
Silver Maple at the height of Summer. | Source

Landscapers dream

The Silver Maple tree is the fastest growing type of Maple making it ideal for planting in landscaping projects. It can recover from flooding and does well in poor, rocky soils. It transplants easily when small and is ideally suited for growing in a nursery. The leaves are silvery white on the bottom which provides its name. The silvery appearance of the leaves is very apparent during a moderate wind.  The bark is smooth on the branches and younger trees, however as the tree matures the trunk bark becomes rough and has a shaggy appearance. The tree requires ample lighting but provides excellent shade as the leaves grow densely.  It is commonly used for shade but careful planning and estimation should be used when planting near homes or other permanent structures..

Silver Maple fruit
Silver Maple fruit | Source
Silver Maple flower
Silver Maple flower | Source

Nuisance Tree

The Silver Maple tree can become a real nuisance for a home owner or business owner. Since the tree is fast growing the wood is softer and more brittle than as slow growing hardwood tree. The tree is easily damaged on windy days and does not fare well in heavy snow or when coated in ice by freezing rain. Downed branches are common and a regular chore to dispose of. The favorable characteristics, shade and fast growth, lend themselves to future problems with this species. The root system of the tree grows shallow and will result in an uneven lawn. Great care is required when mowing the grass lawn growing at the base of the Silver Maple or the mower blades will likely strike the protruding roots. If planted too closely to a foundation or sidewalk, the roots can cause upheaval of the walkway and crack foundation masonry. The roots are also known to invade septic fields and damage well pipes requiring costly replacements or repair.  The branches and trunk commonly fork and requires careful pruning.  Additionally, the dense foliage that provides shade in the hot summer months demands late fall raking cleanup; the tree holds it's leaves longer than most other trees.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • What is the life span of a silver maple?

    The life span of a silver maple will possibly surprise you! The tree can easily live for 100 years and have been known to live for 130 years.


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      5 weeks ago

      Cynthia, nitrogen fertilizers will cause more green leafy growth.

      Regarding leaves being a burden, mow them into your grass. Shredded leaves is amazing fertility for the soil. This is a gift not a curse.

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      18 months ago

      My silver maple tree had a landscape timber box around the base with a ground cover planted in it for about 8 years. I removed the wooden timbers and noticed the dirt around the tree is very hard and is about 14 inches thick. Many ants surround the tree and yellow jackets were attracted to the area until I sprayed and removed the wood. How should I loosen the dirt is this all roots? The tree is over 30 years old and appears healthy.

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      19 months ago

      I have a silver maple, and I am so unhappy with it. The leaves are constantly falling, and I rake every single day. Did some research, and was told to give it fertilizer, which I did, and the leaves are worse than ever. Also, I was told to give the tree a granular insecticide, but not until the fall....Help!!!

      Cynthia Scattone

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      20 months ago

      We have a silver maple that is 30 years old... it seem to have a fungi growing on it, the leaves are dying and the branches are getting green spots all over it.... some of the branches have died.. what to do???

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      21 months ago

      It appears my silver maple has a strong odor like cat urine - normal???

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      4 years ago

      I planted a Silver Maple away from my well, septic system, and house, but it is close to the pipe that comes from the well into the house. This pipe is buried six feet down. Is this a problem?


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