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Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’ (photo courtesy of Monrovia)
Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’ (photo courtesy of Monrovia)

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Zones 1-10, 14-20, 32-45
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Acer saccharum

Sugar Maple
Deciduous, Trees


Maples are a varied group. They may be large and midsize shade trees; smaller trees; and dainty, picturesque shrub-trees. Leaves range from simple ovals to deeply lobed and finely dissected shapes. One element common to all maples is the fruit (seed capsule), which resembles a hardware store wingnut.

Many maples have beautiful fall color. Look for one that colors well in your locale; visit nurseries while the foliage is changing hue.

The larger maples have extensive fibrous root systems that take water and nutrients from the topsoil. The great canopy of leaves calls for a steady, constant supply of water, not necessarily frequent watering but constantly available water throughout the root zone. Occasional deep watering and periodic feeding will help keep roots deep.

Medium to large maple species need little pruning. On smaller types, prune to accentuate the natural shape. To minimize sap bleed, make any cuts in summer or early fall in mild-winter areas, from summer to the end of January where temperatures remain below freezing.

Acer saccharum ‘Fall Fiesta’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Acer saccharum ‘Fall Fiesta’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Acer saccharum

The source of maple sugar. Moderate growth to 60 ft. or taller. Stout branches with upward sweep usually form fairly compact canopy to about 40 ft. wide. Leaves 3–6 in. wide, with three to five lobes, green above, pale below. In cold-winter climates, spectacular fall color ranging from yellow and orange to deep red and scarlet.

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