13 Beautiful Species of Maple Trees

Varieties of Maple Trees

The Spruce, 2018

Maple trees include a sizable number of species in the genus Acer within the plant family Aceraceae. Most of the maple species are deciduous woody plants, ranging from multi-stemmed shrubs to large upright trees with massive trunks.

Many people decide to plant maples because they work well as shade, street, and specimen trees. Maples are renowned for their autumn colors; many species put on a display of oranges, browns, yellows, and reds every year. Some trees may have leaves sporting several of these colors at once. Another desirable trait is the ability of many maples to tolerate drought.

Warning

Most maples are shallow-rooted trees that can push up sidewalks and other paving surfaces if planted too close. Many varieties also develop thick exposed roots that make it hard to mow lawns; these types are better planted in a woodland setting or where the ground around them can be covered with mulch or a living ground cover other than grass. Most maples are also moisture-seekers, and their roots may infiltrate water pipes or sewer lines if they are planted above them. Always check the behavior of the maple species you are considering before planting it.

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7 Reasons We Love Maple Trees

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    Amur Maple (Acer ginnala)

    Amur Maple
    Keith Ewing/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    The Amur maple is one of the smaller trees in the Acer genus, growing either as a spreading multi-stem shrub or a small tree with a dense, rounded crown. Acer ginnala is sometimes classified as a subspecies of Tatarian maple, carrying the label Acer tataricum subsp. ginnala. It also is sometimes called by the common name Siberian maple. Fall leaf color is red, with yellows sometimes also appearing. The 'Embers' and 'Flame' varieties have especially vibrant fall colors in both leaves and fruit. Once established, the Amur maple will have some drought resistance.

    • Native Area: Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Siberia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Height: 15 to 20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 02 of 13

    Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)

    Big leaf maple

     

    Andrei Stanescu / Getty Images

    As the name suggests, the leaves are quite large on this tree. It has the biggest leaves of any maple; the classic five-lobed, palm-shape leaves can be over 12 inches wide. Other common names for this tree include broadleaf maple and Oregon maple. Big leaf maple is a massive, thick-bodied tree with furrowed gray or reddish-brown bark. Spring foliage is burgundy, turning green in summer, then yellow or yellow-orange in fall. This large tree is an excellent shade tree for large landscapes and parks.

    • Native Area: Western North America, from Alaska down to southern California.
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: 20 to 100 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
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    Hedge Maple (Acer campestre)

    Hedge maple

     

    andreasgaertner / Getty Images

    The hedge maple is a great choice for the urban garden, as it does well in many difficult environments: drought; acidic, alkaline, or salty soils; shady locations; and climates where there is ozone deficiency. It can also be used as a street tree if the power lines are high enough. Also known as field maple or common maple, the hedge maple is a small- to medium-sized tree that can serve as a shade tree in small landscapes or can be pruned to serve as a hedge plant in larger landscapes.Medium-green foliage gives way to yellow colors in fall.

    • Native Area: Europe and southwestern Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 25 to 35 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
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    Hornbeam Maple (Acer carpinifolium)

    Hornbeam hedge

     

    esemelwe / Getty Images

    Many plant species within a genus have a similar appearance, but there can be surprises, as is the case with hornbeam maple. Its leaves are nothing like what you expect from a maple. Instead, as the scientific and common names note, the foliage more closely resembles that of the hornbeam tree (Carpinus spp.). Rather than the palm-shaped lobes found on the classic maple, this species has lobeless elongated leaves with pointed tips and corrugated texture. The green leaves turn yellow or brownish-gold in fall. This can be a somewhat difficult plant to find for sale, but it can make a good small tree or large shrub in the landscape.

    • Native Area: Japan
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 15 to 30 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
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  • 05 of 13

    Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

    Japanese maple tree
    ketkarn sakultap/Getty Images

    The Japanese maple is a staple in many Japanese gardens, as well as in the world of bonsai. The leaves are either green or red and come in a wide variety of shapes and textures—there are thousands of cultivars. The leaves typically have more lobes than other maples, and a finer texture. Fall colors vary considerably depending on cultivar; yellows, red-purples, and bronze hues are all available.

    A Japanese maple can be a focal point in many different types of garden designs. Dwarf varieties are often used as ornamental shrubs, while larger cultivars are planted as small specimen trees. This plant is sensitive to both heat and cold. Even in zone 5, a severe cold spell in winter can cause severe dieback, and in the southern part of the range, it benefits from some shade to prevent leaf scorch.

    • Native Area: China, Korea, Japan
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: Varies; usually 15 to 25 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade, may survive full shade
  • 06 of 13

    Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

    Norway maple

     

    David & Micha Sheldon / Getty Images

    Known either as Norway maple or European maple, this popular species was brought to North America from Europe in the 18th century. It has since become one of the most prevalent trees. This medium-sized shade tree has an attractive dense crown that is symmetrically round, but it is a shallow-rooted tree. In the right settings, this species may become invasive, so before planting it check to make sure it is not a problem in your region. 'Crimson King' is one of the most popular varieties; it features very attractive maroon leaves throughout the growing season, but the fall color is unremarkable, turning a grayish color. Other varieties usually feature yellow hues in fall.

    • Native Area: Europe and western Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Height: usually 40 to 50 feet; sometimes as much as 90 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
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    Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum)

    Paperbark maple

     

    MichelR45 / Getty Images

    The paperbark maple is often chosen for a landscape because of its cinnamon or reddish-brown colored bark that peels away from the trunk, even when the tree is young. This is a small rounded tree with narrow upright branches. The three-lobed leaves are medium green on the top surfaces, with bottom surfaces that are gray-green. The foliage turns dramatic shades of orange or red in fall. The paperbark maple is an excellent specimen tree for small landscapes, especially when planted near a deck or patio where it can be appreciated. The interesting bark provides plenty of winter interest.

    • Native Area: Central China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Height: 15 to 30 feet tall and wide
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 08 of 13

    Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

    Red maple tree
    patrickou/pixabay/ CC0

    The red maple lives up to its name at many points through the year. The red spring buds turn into red seed structure (samaras) hanging from reddish twigs. Reds return to the tree with the fall color change. This medium-sized maple is a very common landscape tree in North America. It is a classic shade tree with a rounded or oval-shaped crown. Three-lobed (or sometimes five-lobed) green leaves usually turn reddish in fall, though the particular hues can be unpredictable. Fall color also varies according to variety, ranging from greenish-yellow to red to burgundy.

    Regionally, this tree carries many different common names: scarlet maple, soft maple, Drummond red maple, Carolina red maple, swamp maple, trident red maple, and water maple.

    • Native Area: Eastern U.S. and Canada
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Height: 30 to 100 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
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  • 09 of 13

    Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

    Silver maple


    asmithers / Getty Images

    The undersides of this maple tree's leaves are silver and flash attractively in the wind. The silver maple is one of the trees you are most likely to see throughout the U.S., since it naturalizes very easily and grows very quickly. In a neglected yard, seedlings may quickly spout up and overtake a landscape. As with many widespread species, this tree carries several regional common names, such as soft maple, creek maple, river maple, white maple, and water maple. In fall, this tree turns attractive shades of yellow, orange, or red. This is another shallow-rooted tree that should be kept away from areas with pipes or paving.

    • Native Area: Eastern U.S. and Canada
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Height: 50 to 100 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 10 of 13

    Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

    Sugar Maple Tree
    Joshua Mayer/flickr/CC 2.0

    This maple is the first choice for those seeking to make maple syrup, as the sap contains a larger percentage of plant sugars than with any other maple species. While it can make a good large shade tree in the right circumstances, this is not a tree that is very tolerant of urban conditions. It does not respond well to compacted soils, road salts, or pollution. It does, however, tolerate shade better than most large deciduous trees.

    The sugar maple is a large tree with a densely rounded crown. The leaves are medium-green in color with three or five lobes; the foliage turns yellow-orange in fall. Regionally, this species may be known as the rock maple or hard maple.

    • Native Area: Northeastern and southern U.S., northeastern Canada
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Height: 50 to 80 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
  • 11 of 13

    Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)

    Sycamore maple


    debibishop / Getty Images

     

    The species and common names for this maple come from the fact that the leaves are similar to those of the sycamore (Platanus). This tree does well with urban conditions like salt and pollution. In some areas, this tree is known as the planetree maple.

    The sycamore maple is one of the more massive maples, featuring a dense rounded crown. The dark-green leaves are quite large, with five lobes, but there is no fall color to speak of—the foliage remains green or may turn a yellowish-brown. It is not a popular landscape tree because it lacks fall color, but the sycamore maple can make a good shade tree and has good tolerance for salty conditions.

    • Native Area: Europe and western Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 40 to 60 feet; sometimes as much as 100 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • 12 of 13

    Tatarian Maple (Acer tataricum)

    Tatarian maple

     

    aga7ta / Getty Images

    This species is closely related to the Amur maple. It is usually grown as a small upright tree but can also be grown as a shrub if left unpruned. Its leaves generally have three lobes when the tree is young but the leaves on mature trees are not lobed. Greenish-white flowers in spring give way to red samaras, and the fall foliage is yellow or red.

    • Native Area: Central/southeastern Europe and Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Height: 15 to 20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
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  • 13 of 13

    Vine Leaf Maple (Acer cissifolium)

    Vine leaf maple

     

    Mark Turner / Getty Images

    The vine leaf maple features leaves with three parts, a structure known as trifoliate. The leaves are less like the classic maple, more closely resembling the leaves of ivies or ash trees (another common name for this plant is ivy-leaved maple). In shape and size, this small tree looks similar to the Japanese maple and may be used in a similar way as a specimen tree. Fall foliage is variable, ranging from an ordinary green to shades of yellow and red.

    • Native Area: Japan
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 20 to 30 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Fall Color Tip

While it is a good idea to keep most landscape trees properly watered throughout the growing season, a maple will produce its best fall color if watering is withheld in the last weeks of summer and early fall. Fall color is stimulated by the slight stress that occurs when climate conditions become dry, and if you irrigate a maple too diligently, its fall color may be disappointing.