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Silver Maple vs Sugar Maple

Silver and sugar maple are easy to tell apart by leaf, buds, and growth habit. There only slight overlap in habitat: silver maple usually grows closer to water and sugar maple on well-drained sites.

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

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.
A shade-tolerant deciduous tree of the northeast, often associated with climax communities on rich, mesic sites.
Leaves deeply-cut, with irregularly serrated margins.
Photo © Mark Apgar, CC BY 4.0.
Lobes shallower. Leaves pointed at lobe tips, but leaf margins smooth between points, often forming U-shaped curves.
Photo © Yann Kemper, Public Domain.
Leaves silvery-white on underside.
Photo © Mark Apgar, CC BY 4.0.
Leaves the same color or only slightly lighter on underside.
Photo © Nate Martineau, CC BY 4.0.
Large, reddish buds round to blunt-tipped; 4 or fewer pairs of bud scales visible. Side buds often nearly as large as terminal buds.
Photo © randomrover, CC BY 4.0.
Much smaller terminal buds sharply pointed; 4-8 pairs of bud scales visible. Side buds much smaller than terminal buds and angle in the direction of the twig.
Photo © Quinten Wiegersma, CC BY 4.0.
Large samaras have elongated seeds that meet at a right angle at the base.
Photo © askalotl, Public Domain.
Smaller samaras have more spherical seeds, fused more horizontally at the base.
Photo © Rob Foster, CC BY 4.0.
In the wild, trees usually have multi-trunk growth habit, with trunks angled.
Photo © Sarah Johnson, CC BY 4.0.
Usually has single-trunk growth habit, with straight trunk branching only higher up.
Photo © Charlie Hohn, CC BY 4.0.
Fall color yellow to brownish, but many leaves drop when still green.
Photo © Laura Gaudette, CC BY 4.0.
Fall color variable, but usually includes vibrant reds and oranges in addition to yellow. Leaves usually retained on tree until they change color.
Photo © Tanja Miloti?, 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.

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Acer saccharinum | Go Botany (About This Site)

Acer saccharum | Go Botany (About This Site)

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

Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple) | Illinois Wildflowers (About This Site)

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

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

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

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