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Norway Maple vs Sugar Maple

These plants are often confused due to similarity in leaf shape and occurrence in the same habitat; they are easily distinguished by samaras, flowers, mature tree bark, buds, or the presence/absence of milky sap. Leaf shape can be distinguished, but is best supplemented by other cues.

Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

A shade-tolerant tree native to Europe and Western Asia. Widely used as a landscape plant, and has become invasive in North America in the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest.
A shade-tolerant deciduous tree of the northeast, often associated with climax communities on rich, mesic sites.
Broader-based leaves 5-7-lobed. Side lobes usually extend as wide or wider than front 3 lobes. Front 3 lobes often wider at the base.
Leaves 5-lobed. Side lobes usually greatly diminished, much less wide than diagonal front-side lobes. Front 3 lobes often widen towards the tip.
Samaras spread more horizontally when hanging. Seed very flat.
Samaras more downward-oriented when hanging. Seed round and not flat.
Bark of mature trees has fine, regularly-spaced ridges.
Bark variable, but more irregular on mature trees, often with larger, coarser ridges.
Terminal buds much larger, reddish-brown, rounded or blunt-tipped, usually only 3-4 pairs of bud scales visible.
Terminal buds smaller, brown, sharply pointed, 4-8 pairs of bud scales visible.
Flowers in upright, rounded clusters.
Flowers in strongly drooping clusters.
Leaf stalks exude a milky sap if cut or plucked.
Lacks milky sap.
Autumn color usually yellow. Less often red. Leaves change color late and are often retained longer on tree.
Autumn color variable but often includes oranges and reds. Usually starts changing color earlier.
Purple-leaf cultivars are widely planted, which retain a dark purple color during the growing season. Their offspring may retain some purple-bronze color.
Leaves always green during growing season. Occasionally foliage will be reddish when leafing out.