Descriptions of trees arranged by scientific name
The only native fir in the area is the Balsam Fir, Abies balsamea
. It is not common to the White Pine/Red Oak woods that dominate eastern Mass., but it is seen in some locations.
The maples belong to the genus Acer
characterized by palmately
lobed opposite leaves, and winged fruits called samaras
. The leaves are
distinctive among adult trees (some small Virburnum
have opposite palmate
leaves), and the fruits
are absolutely unique. Most Acer
grow to be large trees. The native Acer
and Acer saccharinum
are among the first trees to bloom and fruit. The identification
of species of Acer
, by fruit and leaf
together, is straightforward. An introduced maple, A. platanoides
, is a major common street
and lawn tree, and can be found growing as an escape. Acer saccharum
, the sugar maple, does not
really grow wild in eastern Massachusetts, but is widely planted.
Although the Sugar Maple is the best known of the maples, you
will see far more of the other species. A.
and A. platanoides
cast very dense shade, and their thin leaves mat down wetly in
the autumn, doing a job on lawns. This contrasts with oaks
which are easier on grass because they cast thinner shade, and
their leathery leaves form a crunchier, bouncier, airier layer
on the ground.
Scientific Name: Acer negundo
Not common in area.
Weed tree found near railroad tracks, waste
Opposite, pinnately compound with 3-7 leaflets. Leaflets with
coarse, irregular teeth.
Ashes have much more regular leaves,
no other maple in area has compound leaves. Other trees' (except Ash's)
pinnate leaves are alternate.
This is a commonly planted, small, decorative, Japanese maple, often with
purple or even blood red leaves. The shape of the leaves is quite
distinctive. Look for it only in cultivation, particularly on lawns.
Scientific Name: Acer platanoides
(AY·sir plat·uh·no·EYE·deez) "planetree-like maple"
Diamond-ridge pattern of mature bark is like
that of an Ash, and distinctive among maples. Young bark is smoother,
not necessarily very different from a Red Maple's.
Imbricate scales, inner ones bearing coarse
brown hairs (evident as bud opens).
Fruit, mature bark
(but cf. Ash!), flowers, white sap when present (among maples).
European tree, widely cultivated.
Very common as an escape. Perhaps the most common city tree. No longer
a trendy tree among landscapers, so look twice at what appears to be a
Convex corymb, 2 to 4 inches across.
. Five greenish yellow petals alternating
with five greener sepals, both 5 mm long. Flower 12 mm across, pedicels
1 to 3 cm. Eight stamens borne on disk, 3 mm across. Style longer
than stamens, with twin outcurved stigmas
. This tree flowers abundantly,
and showily, in April. No other maple has an inflorescence of this shape,
or this showy. Sticky, white sap.
Flattened winged schizocarp. The portion of fruit
surrounding seed is also flattened, unlike that of other maples. With wings
almost in line with each other, entire fruit is 3 to 4 inches wide. Green
at first, drying to medium brown. The largest maple fruit.
Medium to almost large tree, heavier branches
than many sugar maples. Like sugar maple, and unlike Ashes, casts dense
shade. Fast growing.
Planted on streets, in yards.
Winged fruits, produced copiously, allow it to spread to hedges,
vacant lots, edges of woods. Any ill-kept privet hedge near a Norway
Maple will be infested with 1 and 2 foot tall Norway Maples. You can put
money on it!
Opposite, palmately lobed, large for a maple
(5 to 7" across). Petiole, as long as leaf's midvein, usually 4 or 5".
White sap when plucked, quite noticeable when young. Usually five main
lobes. Glabrous above and below, except for tufts in axils of veins.
A purple-leaved variety is commonly planted. Distinguish this from Purple
Beech (trivial) and A. palmatum
(color redder, leaf shape
very different, often seven lobes, small tree.)
Bark is like that of White Ash. Leaves
resemble those of Sugar Maple, but bark, flowers and fruit will distinguish
Ubiquitous about Norway maples in the spring.
are strap-shaped, three to four cm long and 8 mm wide, with
Scientific Name: Acer pseudoplatanus
(AY-sir pseudo-PLAT-uh-nuss) "false-planetree maple".
Sycamore Maple, Sycamore
(in British Isles).
Splotchy scales, with orangey-brown showing
beneath. Dull grey.
European native, present here in
cultivation, or as an escape. Not particularly common, but present.
In hanging, cylindrical inflorescence.
Planted, or waste-places.
Opposite, palmately-lobed, with quilted
texture. Blade 12 cm. long or so, petiole 12 cm., normally slightly longer than blade.
Scientific Name: Acer rubrum
(AY·sir RUBE·rum) "red maple"
Red Maple, Swamp Maple.
Smooth and grey when young. Rough, darker,
with vertical ridges on older trunks. Can be confused with Sugar Maple,
which has more pronounced ridges, and less of a scaly look.
Fruit, buds, flowers.
When leaves turn dark red (which isn't always), the only tree that shares
this color is Nyssa sylvatica
Common native tree, and commonly planted.
Red, bloom very briefly in earliest April.
A winged schizocarp, with almost parallel wings,
rounded at their bases where the seed is hidden. Red when young, tinged
red when mature. Appear in early April, fallen by mid May.
Typical of swamps and other wet places, but
also grows in dry woods. Planted on streets and lawns.
: Opposite, with three or five major palmate
lobes. Serrate (as are those of Silver Maple and unlike those of Sugar and Norway
maples). Red maples have strong autumn
-- usually yellow or red, as does the Sugar Maple. The Norway Maple
and Silver Maple are not as spectacular.
In winter, resembles Sugar Maple.
Young Red Maples resemble Silver Maples, and can share their habitat.
The red of the buds, flowers and fruits distinguish it, along with its
leaves (shallower sinuses
than Silver Maple,
clearly serrrate margins.
unlike Sugar Maple).
Scientific Name: Acer saccharinum
Elongated thinnish scales, loose at top and
bottom. Medium grey. Young bark grey and smooth like Red Maple's.
Bark. Leaves. Among
maples, it shape.
Native to this area, and fairly common.
First maple to bloom. Flowers are pendant,
Sometimes weeps. Large, fast-growing tree,
with big diagonally-spreading limbs. A large tree, the only maple with
typically massive branches.
Near water, particularly river banks.
In actual swamps, elms and Red Maple are more likely. Was once widely
planted, but because of the fragility of its twigs and large branches is
no longer favored by landscapers and homeowners. Look for it in
cultivation in parks, and on lawns and roadsides in older neighborhoods.
Opposite, palmately lobed, serrate, glaucous
beneath, pale green. Autumn color a pale yellow, often with green remaining.
Young Silver Maples look like Red Maples.
Scientific name: Acer saccharum
(AY·sir SACK·uh·rum) "sugar maple".
sugar maple, rock maple, black maple.
Like Red Maple's when young.
Old bark has strong vertical ridges, whose edges lift free of the trunk.
Not really native to eastern
Massachusetts, where the soil is dry and acidic. Widely planted on
roadsides and lawns. Outside of older, wealthier neighborhoods and parks,
not a city tree. The best known of the maples, but much less common than
that would make you think.
Trunk usually breaks up into an oval mass
of branches, broader at the base. This shape is distinctive in winter.
Cool, mature woods or in cultivation.
Does not withstand sunny, dry, polluted city conditions well. In the wild,
associated with hemlock, beech, red oak and yellow birch. The common
association of eastern Massachusetts is Red Oak/White Oak (formerly including
American Chestnut), which prevails on soils too acidic for the Sugar Maple.
Opposite, with five large palmate
ending in attenuate tips. Not serrate. The autumn color is bright yellow,
orange, or scarlet.
Red maple has similar fall colors, and the barks are not too different.
Red Maples are sometimes planted on busy city streets, and will grow
in swamps and dry oak woods, all very unlikely places to find a Sugar Maple.
Close up, the Red Maple's serrate leaf, often with only three major
lobes, is quite different.
Norway Maple has similar, but usually larger, leaves. Use fruits and
flowers to differentiate. Norway Maples won't be found near