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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.
Lobes shallower. Leaves pointed at lobe tips, but leaf margins smooth between points, often forming U-shaped curves.
Leaves silvery-white on underside.
Leaves the same color or only slightly lighter on underside.
Usually has multi-trunk growth habit, with trunks angled.
Usually has single-trunk growth habit, with straight trunk branching only higher up.
Large, reddish buds round to blunt-tipped; 4 or fewer pairs of bud scales visible. Side buds often nearly as large as terminal buds.
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.
Large samaras have elongated seeds that meet at a right angle at the base.
Smaller samaras have more spherical seeds, fused more horizontally at the base.
Fall color yellow to brownish, but many leaves drop when still green.
Fall color variable, but usually includes vibrant reds and oranges in addition to yellow. Leaves usually retained on tree until they change color.