Tree to 30 m tall, trunk to 0.9 m in diameter Leaves
: opposite, reddish-stalked, bright green above, silvery white beneath, 14 - 20 cm long, 10 - 18 cm wide, deeply five-lobed, irregularly toothed, often hairy beneath. Fall color is pale yellow. Flowers
: either male or female, found on the same (monoecious) or different (dioecious) plants, borne in clusters, greensih yellow to red. Fruit
: winged (samara), paired, 4 - 7.5 cm long, with wings forming a 90 degree angle, abundant. Bark
: gray to brownish gray, smooth when young, developing furrows and thin flat scales that may curl at the ends. Twigs
: green, turning reddish brown to chestnut brown with age, releasing an unpleasant odor when scratched. Terminal buds
: red to reddish brown, 6 - 8 mm long with a nearly rounded tip.
Similar species: Acer rubrum and Acer saccharinum are sometimes difficult to distinguish. Acer rubrum has smaller fruit with wings spread to 50 or 60 degrees, shallowly lobed leaves, and the twigs lack an unpleasant odor. Acer x freemanii is a naturally occurring hybrid between A. saccharinum and A. rubrum. It combines the faster growth rate, adaptability to many soil types, and deeply lobed leaves of A. saccharinum with the red fall color and stronger branch structure of A. rubrum.
Flowering: March to mid April
Habitat and ecology: Common in floodplains, along ponds and streams, and in wet, poorly drained, muck or peat soils.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: Acer saccharinum is an important source of food and shelter for wildlife. Fox, squirrels, birds, and other animals eat the abundant seeds, while deer eat young leaves and twigs. The trunk tends to become hollowed from heart-rot, providing shelter for squirrels and raccoons. Acer saccharinum is one of the fastest growing trees in the Chicago Region and was once commonly planted as a street tree. Unfortunately, it is disease prone and weak wooded, which leads to hazardous branch splitting. Today, other species have replaced A. saccharinum as commonly planted street trees.
Etymology: Acer is derived from a Latin word meaning sharp, which refers to the hardness of the wood. Saccharinum means sugary.
Author: The Morton Arboretum