Red, Silver, Freeman's Maples Acer rubrum, A. saccharinum, A. x freemanii
Family: Aceraceae (Maple)
Branching: Opposite

Red and Silver Maples, though distinct in their typical forms, represent the extreme ends of a whole range of varying intermediates.  In the summer, they are most easily separated by the extent of the lobes in the leaves.  Silver Maple leaves are very deeply cut (as well as silvery underneath) and Red Maple leaves have very shallow lobes.  But these two Maples hybridize very readily in the wild, with the cross often being called Freeman's Maple.  In southern Ontario these various crosses seem to be the most common variety.  In the winter, the differences are marginal.  Some claim that Silver Maple twigs have an "unpleasant odour" when broken, but I have never personally noticed this (they all just smell like trees to me!)  Silver Maple tends to have shaggier bark as a mature tree as well, though again, this is variable.  

But as a group, these two maples are easy to tell apart from the others.  They both have fairly red twigs (but not hairy like Mountain Maple) and probably the best feature is their clumped flower buds, which are usually visible from the ground even on large trees.  These buds resemble the other buds but are clumped together on dwarf shoots and are very conspicuous.  These two are also the most water-loving of the maples (and are often found growing in near swampy conditions).  However, Silver Maple, is the one more typically associated with wetter areas

Winter twig.  

The leaf scars on the lateral buds do not meet.

The clustered flower buds stand out on these two species.

Even from the ground, the flower buds are sometimes very obvious.

When these maples are cut, they send up many shoots, giving them a shrub-like appearance.

Young branch

Young bark beginning to split

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copyright 2008 Josh Sayers
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