Monday, July 16, 2012

I never thought I'd sing the praises of silver maple (Acer saccharinum). This fast-growing species, common to river bottoms and floodplains throughout the central and eastern US, is considered by most tree enthusiasts (or tree snobs, whichever you prefer) to be a rather trashy tree not deserving of much attention or wide-spread planting. I've thumbed my nose at it most of my life and have literally cursed it many times as my neighbor's large tree drops its helicopter seeds by the millions clogging my gutters and leaving me with many hundreds of seedlings to pull every year. In fact I am now up to an estimated 7,384 seedlings I've pulled out of my yard over the last 20 years. Another concern with the species is its weak-wooded nature. It grows fast and big and is prone to significant damage in high-winds and ice storms and is a common culprit to power outages in such events. Over the years, many homes, vehicles and people have been damaged by falling limbs.  

Silver maple leaf - deeply lobed with prominent serrations and a "silvery" underside.

Tree huggers and a large silver maple in Ithaca New York. (credit Rich and Royal Hue) 

There is most definitely a lot to dislike about silver maple. And yet as I look around eastern Nebraska in this brutally hot and dry summer, the silver maple should be a much appreciated tree for the wide-spreading shade it casts. Look up at the canopy of any community forest and some of the most important trees helping to cool the air around us are the silver maples. The heat doesn't bother them and although they are a floodplain species, they seem to be very tolerant of significant drought. I doubt I will ever plant one myself, but in a summer like this I can sure appreciate the big silver maples that we do have - especially my neighbor's tree shading the south side of my house and property.

State Champion silver maple, Chautauqua Park, Beatrice

Yours truly - in the state champion silver maple.

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