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Scientific name: Anthophyta: Dicotyledonae: Sapindales: Aceraceae:
Common Name: Information Sheet, Maples
Photographer: E. M. Barrows
Identifier: E. M. Barrows
Aceraceae, Maple Family (updated 2000 07 14, 2000 10 24, 2002 08 10)
Acer spp., Maples (Fernald 1950, 984) [Latin Acer, maple]
Maples are trees, and sometimes shrubs, of the Northern Hemisphere, with palmately veined leaves, or rarely pinnately veined leaves (Fernald 1950, p. 984).
Many kinds of native and exotic maples grow in the WDC Area, including Ash-leaved Maple (= Boxelder), Japanese Maple, Norway Maple, Red Maple, Silver Maple, Striped Maple, and Sugar Maple.
Identification by leaves. Leaves vary in shape within all maple species, but they usually fall into identifiable ranges within species. All of our Forest Ecology maples have simple opposite leaves, except Ash-leaved Maple which has pinnately compound leaves. Leaves of Striped Maple are often 3-lobed and resemble a goose’s footprint. Leaves of Silver Maple and Sugar Maple are usually 5-lobed. Silver Maple has leaves with the deepest indentations and lightest undersides of our study maples. Sugar Maple leaves have a terminal lobe without teeth on its margins. This lobe varies from being tapered to having parallel sides. Red Maple leaves are 3- or 5-lobed, and have teeth on the margins of their terminal lobes. These leaves often have reddish petioles. Silver Maple has deeply-lobed, opposite, simple, toothless leaves. They superficially resemble those of Red Maple and Sugar Maple. Silver Maple leaves are more white below than those of the other two species. Red Maple leaves vary in shape; the terminal lobe of a leaf of this species is usually tapered toward its tip and has teeth on its margins.
Leaves of the Norway Maple (exotic) and Sugar Maple (native) are similar. In Norway Maple, the sides of the terminal lobe slightly taper toward its tip. In Sugar Maple, the sides of this lobe are usually parallel. Generally speaking, if any leaves on a particular tree (which is either a Norway or Sugar Maple) have parallel sides of terminal lobes, then the tree is a Sugar Maple. The Norway Maple is an invasive tree in our Area, and should not be planted.
General roles in forests. Maples are autotrophs the generally live in forests, forest edges, successional areas, and yards. Many kinds of organisms consume dead and living maple fruits, leaves, roots, and stems.
Specific roles in forests. Please see information sheets on particular species.