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Red Maple vs Silver Maple

Red and silver maple are closely related and have similar buds, but are usually easy to tell apart by leaves and growth habit. They can occur in the same habitat, but red maple occurs in a wider range of habitats. Hard-to-distinguish trees may be a hybrid: Freeman Maple (Acer ×freemanii), which occurs naturally and is also widely planted in landscaping.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

The most abundant tree species in North America, and a habitat generalist, native to a wide range across the eastern part of the continent.
A maple with deeply-lobed leaves, named for the silvery color of the backside of its leaves. Native to North America; common in floodplains and along rivers.
Smaller leaves with shallower lobes.
Photo © coatlicue (iNaturalist), Public Domain.
Larger, deeply-cut leaves.
Photo © Mark Apgar, CC BY 4.0.
Can grow with multiple trunks but often has a single-trunk growth habit and grows relatively straight.
Photo © Charlie Inyo, CC BY 4.0.
Landscaping plants can have a single-trunk habit, but wild plants usually have a multi-trunk growth habit with angled trunks.
Photo © Sarah Johnson, CC BY 4.0.
Fall color variable, but usually an intense red. Leaves usually change color before falling.
Photo © Charlie Hohn, CC BY 4.0.
Fall color yellow to brownish, but many leaves are dropped when still green.
Photo © Laura Gaudette, CC BY 4.0.
Samaras bold red.
Photo © Vijay Barve, CC BY 4.0.
Samaras yellowish to brown when ripe.
Photo © askalotl, Public Domain.

References & External Resources

These short lists show only links helpful for ID. For a complete list of references and resources also covering other aspects of ecology, visit the links section of the full article on each plant, whcih is the first entry here.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

Acer rubrum | Go Botany (About This Site)

Acer saccharinum | Go Botany (About This Site)

Acer rubrum (Red Maple) | Illinois Wildflowers (About This Site)

Acer saccharinum (Silver Maple) | Illinois Wildflowers (About This Site)

Red Maple | Virginia Tech Dendrology Factsheets (About This Site)

Silver Maple | Virginia Tech Dendrology Factsheets (About This Site)

Acer rubrum | Biota of North America Project (BONAP) (About This Site)

Acer saccharinum | Biota of North America Project (BONAP) (About This Site)