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12 Species of Maple Trees

Members of the Genus Acer


Maple trees are classified in the genus Acer in the Maple family (Aceraceae). Many botanists now fold this family into the Sapindaceae (soapberry) family. Three traits that can help you identify a maple tree are leaves that are palmate and lobed (for most species), opposite branching, and winged seeds called samaras. Many maple species are drought tolerant.

Maple trees are renowned for their autumn colors.  They love to put on a display of oranges, browns, yellows and reds every year. Some trees may have leaves sporting several of these colors at once!

An important product made from maple trees is maple syrup, which is made from collected sap. Tap a sugar or black maple for best results. Sap can also be collected from other maple species like big leaf, boxelder, red and silver. The sap is then boiled and filtered.

The maple is the national tree of Canada as of 1965. The sugar maple leaf is featured prominently on their flag.  

1. Amur Maple

Image by Ixitixel via Creative Commons
  • Latin Name: Acer ginnala. Some classify this as Acer tataricum subsp. ginnala
  • Other Common Names: Siberian maple
  • Native to: Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Siberia
  • USDA Zones: 3 - 8
  • Height: 15 - 20' tall
  • Fall Color: Red. Sometimes yellow will also appear.
  • Amur maple growing profile

The Amur maple is one of the smaller trees in the Acer genus.  Once established, it will have some drought resistance. In some areas it can be invasive, so check with your extension office first before planting. The 'Embers' and 'Flame' varieties have especially vibrant fall colors in both leaves and fruit.

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    2. Big Leaf Maple

    Image of big leaf maple
    Image by brewbooks via Flickr
    • Latin Name: Acer macrophyllum
    • Other Common Names: Bigleaf maple, broadleaf maple, Oregon maple
    • Native to: Alaska down to southern California, as well as Idaho.
    • USDA Zones: 5 - 9
    • Height: 20 - 100' tall
    • Fall Color: Yellow or yellow-orange
    • Big leaf maple growing profile

    As the name suggests, there are some pretty big leaves on this tree. In fact, this species has the biggest leaves of any maple, which can be over 12" wide. The roots may cause problems for sidewalks and pipes.

      3. Hedge Maple

      Picture of hedge maple
      Image by Shandchem via Flickr
      • Latin Name: Acer campestre
      • Other Common Names: Field maple, common maple
      • Native to: Europe and southwestern Asia
      • USDA Zones: 5 - 8
      • Height: 25 - 35' tall
      • Fall Color: Yellow

      The hedge maple is a great choice for the urban garden as it does well in drought, salty areas, ozone deficiency, acidic and alkaline soils, and areas with partial shade. It can also be used as a street tree if the power lines are high enough.


          4. Japanese Maple

          Image of Japanese maple
          Image by Wallygrom via Flickr
          • Latin Name: Acer palmatum
          • Other Common Names:
          • Native to: China, Korea, Japan
          • USDA Zones: 5 - 9
          • Height: Varies - average is 15 - 25' tall
          • Fall Color: Depends on the variety
          • Japanese maple growing profile

          The Japanese maple is a staple in many Japanese gardens, as well as in the world of bonsai. The leaves are either green or red and come in a wide variety of shapes and textures, meaning this can be the focal point in many different types of garden designs.

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              5. Norway Maple

              Photo of Norway maple
              Image by Mick E. Talbot via Flickr
              • Latin Name: Acer platanoides
              • Native to: Europe and western Asia
              • USDA Zones: 3 - 7
              • Height: 40 - 90' tall
              • Fall Color: Yellow, with some species exhibiting other colors

              This popular maple species was brought to North America in the 18th century. You may not want to plant the Norway maple in a lawn as the roots will grow right to the surface and make mowing difficult. 'Crimson King' is one of the most popular varieties and features maroon leaves throughout the growing season. In the right settings, this species may become invasive, so make sure this is not a problem in your area first.

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                6. Paperbark Maple

                Picture of paperbark maple
                Image by Art Poskanzer via Flickr

                The paperbark maple is often chosen for its cinnamon or reddish-brown colored bark that peels away from the trunk, including when the tree is young. This is a great tree for providing color and interest during the winter.

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                  7. Red Maple

                  Picture of red maple
                  Image by Nacho 13 via Flickr
                  • Latin Name: Acer rubrum
                  • Other Common Names: Scarlet maple, soft maple, Drummond red maple, Carolina red maple, swamp maple, trident red maple, water maple
                  • Native to: Eastern United States and Canada
                  • USDA Zones: 3 - 9
                  • Height: 30 - 100' tall
                  • Fall Color: Green-yellow, red, burgundy
                  • Red maple growing profile

                  Many parts of the red maple live up to the name.  The red flowers become samaras that may feature red, which compliment the leaves when they often turn red in the fall. The red maple can adapt to many different growing locations.

                    8. Silver Maple

                    Picture of Silver Maple
                    Image by yetdark via Flickr
                    • Latin Name: Acer saccharinum
                    • Other Common Names: Soft maple, creek maple, river maple, white maple, water maple
                    • Native to: Eastern United States and Canada
                    • USDA Zones: 3 - 9
                    • Height: 50 - 100' tall
                    • Fall Color: Yellow, orange or red
                    • Silver maple growing profile

                    The undersides of this maple tree's leaves are silver and flash attractively in the wind. The silver maple is one of the trees you are most likely to see throughout the United States.  Keep it away from areas with pipes and sidewalks.

                      9. Sugar Maple

                      Photo of Sugar Maple
                      Image by Dendroica cerulea via Flickr
                      • Latin Name: Acer saccharum
                      • Other Common Names: Rock maple, hard maple
                      • Native to: Northeastern and southern United States, and northeastern Canada
                      • USDA Zones: 3 - 8
                      • Height: 50 - 80' tall
                      • Fall Color: Yellow, red or orange
                      • Sugar maple growing profile

                      This is the first choice for making maple syrup as there is more sugar in the sap compared to other species, meaning it will take less sap to produce a gallon of syrup. The sugar maple can tolerate shade better than most large deciduous trees.

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                        10. Sycamore Maple

                        Picture of Sycamore maple
                        Image by Sids1 via Flickr
                        • Latin Name: Acer pseudoplatanus
                        • Other Common Names: False planetree, planetree maple, great maple, sycamore, Scottish maple, mock-plane
                        • Native to: Europe and western Asia
                        • USDA Zones: 4 - 7
                        • Height: 40 - 60' tall, sometimes higher
                        • Fall Color: Green, sometimes yellow-brown
                        • Sycamore maple growing profile

                        The species and common names for this maple comes from the fact that the leaves are similar to those of the sycamore (Platanus). This tree does well with the conditions in urban areas like salt and pollution.

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                          11. Tatarian Maple

                          Picture of Tatarian maple
                          Image by Vanessa Richins Myers
                          • Latin Name: Acer tataricum
                          • Other Common Names:
                          • Native to: Central/southeastern Europe and Asia
                          • USDA Zones: 3 - 8
                          • Height: 15 - 20' tall
                          • Fall Color: Yellow and red

                          This species is closely related to the Amur maple. The Tatarian maple can either grow as a shrub or small tree. The red samaras match the autumn leaves nicely.


                              12. Vine Leaf Maple

                              Picture of vine leaf maple
                              Image by wlcutler via Flickr
                              • Latin Name: Acer cissifolium
                              • Other Common Names:  Vine-leafed maple, vineleaf maple, ivy-leaved maple, ivy leaf maple, ivyleaf maple
                              • Native to: Japan
                              • USDA Zones: 5 - 8
                              • Height: 20 - 30' tall
                              • Fall Color: Yellow, red or green
                              • Vine leaf maple growing profile

                              The vine leaf maple features leaves with three parts,known as trifoliate. This small tree looks similar to the Japanese maple and may also be used as a specimen tree.


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