There are roughly 130 different types of maple trees found within the Acer plant genus. Primarily originating in Asia, maples are an iconic tree to consider planting in your backyard or home landscaping. Not only do these trees come in a variety of pleasing sizes and shapes, but they also exhibit unique leaves and winged seeds.
While we can’t exactly discuss every single individual maple tree species, here’s a list of some of the most popular and common types of maple trees used around the world.
Common and Popular Types of Maple Trees
If you’re considering planting a maple tree (especially if you want to try growing a maple tree from seed!), here are some of the most popular varieties to choose from. Keep in mind that most maple species thrive in partial shade conditions. However, some sunlight is necessary to demonstrate the beautiful changing leaves that occur in the fall. Consider any one of these maple varieties for your home garden!
Classified as Acer saccharum, sugar maples are an important maple tree variety for producing maple syrup, particularly in Canada. They are one of the largest maple trees, reaching heights of up to 150 feet. Plus, they are incredibly long-lived for maples, with some specimens reaching well over 250 years of age.
Not only are red maples considered the state tree of Rhode Island. They are also one of the most common trees found across the eastern United States. Aptly classified as Acer rubrum, red maples thrive in nearly any soil. They also make a great tree for the average home landscaping project.
Not to be confused with sugar maples, silver maples are classified as Acer saccharinum. They are just as popular as red maples given their size and ability to be transplanted. However, silver maples have roots capable of invading septic systems and sewer lines in search of water. Make sure that you plant them with caution!
Only reaching an average of 20-30 feet tall, Acer griseum or paperbark maples originated in China at high altitudes. Not only do these trees produce beautiful fall foliage, but their bark remains ornamental and interesting year-round. Peeling and papery, these maples are a great choice if you need a small tree that’s bound to start a conversation!
Classified as Acer platanoides, Norway maples have a controversial history. Brought into the United States during the 1700s to the 1800s, these trees quickly became invasive. Their rooting habits aren’t ideal for growing other plants nearby. However, there are a number of Norway maple cultivars that make great shade trees for some landscaping projects.
Also known as the Oregon maple or Acer macrophyllum, bigleaf maple trees are native to the west coast of the United States. These maples thrive in moist and cool conditions, often gaining moss and lichen on their trunks in particularly damp locations.
One of the most widespread maple trees has to be Acer negundo, or the boxelder maple. Native to much of North America, the boxelder tree has made its way around the world, used in international landscaping projects. Keep in mind that the wood of these particular maple trees is fairly weak, leading to downed branches during extreme weather conditions.
Classified as Acer nigrum, the black maple is difficult to distinguish from its cousin, the sugar maple. You can easily tell the difference between these two trees by looking at their leaves. Black maples have three distinct lobes on their leaves while sugar maples have five, giving them a more traditional maple leaf appearance.
Compact and striking, amur maples are native to Asia and Russia. Classified as Acer ginnala, amur maples reach up to 40 feet tall and are considered a great maple species for bonsai cultivation. They have uniquely short trunks and spreading branches, so make sure they have more horizontal space to grow as opposed to vertical!
Native to North America and classified as Acer pensylvanicum, the striped maple is another compact maple variety. Given its preference for cold climates, this maple is an important species of tree for wildlife. The bark of the striped maple is food to many different animals during the dead of winter, particularly moose and rabbits.
With over 1,000 different cultivars, Japanese maple trees are likely the most iconic maple tree type around. Classified as Acer palmatum, Japanese maples come in enough sizes, shapes, and strengths that you can find a type that works well in your own backyard!
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- Acer saccharum Marsh. sugar maple, Available here: http://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/USDAFSSilvics/2.pdf
- Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum), Available here: https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/85750/2901-1049.pdf?sequence=1