Florida maple (A. barbatum, including A. floridanum): primarily a species of the Gulf and southeast Atlantic coastal plain, from Texas to North Carolina and Virginia, and up the Mississippi valley as far as Missouri and Illinois.
chalk maple (A. leucoderme): similar in distribution to Florida maple, but not extending into Virginia or up the Mississippi valley.
black maple (A. nigrum): similar in distribution to ‘true’ sugar maple, but somewhat more restricted.
General: Maple Family (Aceraceae). A native tree with a dense, spreading crown, to 25-37(-40) m in height; bark light gray to gray-brown, rough, deeply furrowed, and darker with age. The leaves are deciduous, opposite, long-petioled, blades 5-11 cm long and about as wide, with 5 shallow, blunt or short-pointed lobes, edges coarsely toothed, dark green and glabrous above, whitish and more or less hairy below, turning intensely red, orange, or yellow in fall. The flowers are small, greenish-yellow, in long-stalked, drooping clusters or racemes, each cluster with 8 to 14 flowers. Most trees are either male or female (the species is essentially dioecious), but both kinds of flowers occur on some trees (technically monoecious), sometimes segregated on different branches. The fruits are winged nutlets (samaras) in a pair, 2-2.5 cm long, clustered on long stalks, red to red-brown. The common name refers to the use of the species for making sugar and syrup.
Variation within the species: Closely similar forms of sugar maple have been recognized at various taxonomic ranks – from varieties to subspecies and species. Three of them are now generally recognized as species, but the differences are technical and it is difficult to be sure of the correct identifications of trees sold as “sugar maple” in the southeastern US. Duncan and Duncan (1988) gives a good summary of the distribution and morphology of these species.
Norway maple (Acer platanoides), an introduced European species, is often planted and looks similar to sugar maple, but Norway maple has broader leaves with drooping lobes, and sap from a broken petiole is milky.
Distribution: Sugar maple is widespread in mixed hardwood forests of the eastern United States. It grows from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick westward to Ontario and Manitoba, North Dakota and South Dakota, southward into eastern Kansas into Oklahoma, and southward in the east through New England to Georgia. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
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