Sugar Maple

Sugar Maple Acer SaccharumThe sugar maple (Acer saccharum) (hard maple, rock maple) is one of  our largest and finest forest trees, growing to a height of 80 feet with a diameter of two or more feet.  The tree produces a dense, round, compact crown when grown in the open and is used quite extensively as a shade or ornamental tree.  In the fall the yellow, red and crimson colors of the leaves form a very showy and beautiful part of the landscape.  It is the best of the maples for production of maple syrup and sugar.

Habitat: Grows on moist woods and wooded slopes in eastern Iowa.

sugar maple tree with yellow leaves
Sugar Maple Tree - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

Hardiness: Maples vary in hardiness. Most fall into zones 4 through 8, but some are less tolerant of cold or heat than other. When selecting a maple tree, be sure to select a species suited for Iowa's weather.

Growth Rate: Maples vary in growth rate. Maples that are fast growing tend to have weak wood and may suffer from wind and ice damage. Slower growing maples have heavier, harder wood, making them less susceptible to branch and limb drop.

Mature Shape: Maples typically have a large, rounded crown. Tree canopies may be very dense or wide spreading.

Height: Mature height varies with species.

Width: Width varies with species.

Site Requirements: Maple trees perform best in moist, well-drained soils. Site requirements vary with the species of maple.

Flowering Dates: February - May

Seed Dispersal Dates: April - May

Seed Bearing Age: 30 years

Seed Bearing Frequency: Every 3 to 7 years

Seed Stratification: Prechill for 2 months at 34°F to 40°F

It is found throughout southeastern Canada, the eastern United States and as far west as central Iowa, but is much more common in the eastern part of the state, mostly on the moist soils of bottomlands and lower slopes with north, east or northeast exposures.

The leaves are three to five lobed, but usually five lobed.  The lobes are deeply cut with rounded divisions between the lobes, dark green above and pale green with a silvery cast below. The twigs are opposite on the stem, smooth and gray to brown in color.

Similar to other maples, the fruit is a pair of winged seeds about 1 inch long.  The seeds ripen in the autumn.

On large branches and trunk the bark is light to dark gray, narrowly ridged with long, deep furrows, sometimes becoming scaly.

comparison of sugar maple, red maple, and norway maple, twigs
From Top to Bottom: Sugar Maple, Red Maple, and Norway Maple Twigs, Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

Diseases that Can Affect Sugar Maple

Pests that Can Affect Sugar Maple

sugar maple leaves
Sugar Maple Leaves - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

winged sugar maple fruit
Sugar Maple Fruit - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

green sugar maple flowers
Sugar Maple Flowers - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

sugar maple trunk showing bark
Sugar Maple Bark - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University