The silver maple tree (Acer saccharinum) is one the most common trees of North America. It generally grows 50 to 80 feet tall, though a 10-year-old sapling will stand approximately 25 feet tall.
While it can be an excellent tree for landscaping, it also presents some undesirable characteristics. This article will examine the pros and cons of silver maples and the extensive care they require.
Silver Maples' Appearance
- Like all maple trees, it has a five-pointed leaf and produces a prolific amount of seeds in the early spring.
- The seeds grow in a pair of "wings." When mature, they separate and whirl down from the tree on a single "wing."
- The leaves themselves are silvery white on the bottom, which is where the tree gets 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. As the tree matures, however, the trunk bark becomes rough and has a shaggy appearance.
A Landscaper's 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 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.
Why Would the Silver Maple Be a Nuisance?
The silver maple tree can become a real nuisance for a homeowner or business owner. Its primary favorable characteristics—shade and fast growth—lend themselves to future problems with this species.
Here are a few reasons why silver maples can often be a nuisance:
- Since it is fast growing, the wood is softer and more brittle than that of a 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 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, as 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 require careful pruning.
- It holds its leaves longer than most other trees.
- The dense foliage that provides shade in the hot summer months demands late fall raking clean-up.
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
Question: What is the life span of a silver maple?
Answer: 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.
Zubenelgenubi (author) on July 06, 2020:
Since both the silver maple tree and red maple tree are common landscaping trees probably the best place to buy them would be your local nursery. There you should be able to find those varieties that are mature and ready for your yard.
Alene Thornton on July 06, 2020:
Where can I buy a silver and red maple?
Keith on February 08, 2019:
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.
M.Brock on September 10, 2017:
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.
Cynthia on July 30, 2017:
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!!!
Maryb on July 20, 2017:
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???
Sandi on June 13, 2017:
It appears my silver maple has a strong odor like cat urine - normal???
Kathryne on September 07, 2014:
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?