Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont

Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White

Acer barbatum Michx. Southern sugar maple, Florida maple, hammock maple. Synonyms Acer barbatum var. longii (Fern.) Fern., Acer floridanum (Chapman) Pax, Acer saccharum Marsh. ssp. floridanum (Chapman) Desmarais, Saccharodendron floridanum (Chapman) Nieuwl. Family Sapindaceae. ITIS Taxonomic Serial Number 28759. USDA PLANTS Symbol ACBA3. TROPICOS # 00200076.

Images • Branchlet with leaves. • Individual leaf. • Branchlet with buds. • Close-up of buds. • Close-up of fruits. • Herbarium sheet 1. • Herbarium sheet 2. • Herbarium sheet 3.

Brief Description: A small to medium-sized, deciduous tree usually ranging from 15–25 m. (50–80 ft.) tall when mature. Bark is light gray and smooth on younger trees, becoming ridged and furrowed with age. Leaves are opposite and shallowly to deeply palmately lobed, with a few blunt teeth but no serrations. The leaf sinuses are rounded, unlike those of red maple (Acer rubrum) which are sharply V-shaped. Also, the sides of terminal leaf lobes are more or less parallel, while those of red maple are widest at the base, tapering to the tip. The leaf tips of southern sugar maple often droop. Fruits consist of two, winged samaras that split apart when mature, sometimes traveling long distances on the breeze as they spin to the ground. Southern sugar maple can be difficult to distinguish from its more northern relative, sugar maple (Acer saccharum), which is commonly planted in the North Carolina Piedmont. The leaves of southern sugar maple are usually somewhat smaller though, and the lower leaf surfaces typically hairy, while the larger leaves of sugar maple mostly lack hairs, or bear them only on the veins.

Detailed Description:

Plant habit and life style. Plants Angiosperms, polygamous, (5–)15–25(–30) m tall.

Stems. Pith continuous. Young twigs (1-year-old or less) gray or green or reddish-brown or tan, 1–2 mm wide, glabrous or pubescent, pilose. Twigs (2–4 years old) glabrous. Leaf scars U-shaped or V-shaped, bundle scars 3 per leaf scar, stipule scars absent. Bark of mature trunks furrowed or ridged or smooth.

Buds. Buds axillary or terminal, brown or reddish-brown, (2–)3(–4) mm long, conic, blunt or sharp, pubescent, pilose, bud scales imbricate.

Leaves. Leaves deciduous, simple, petiolate, opposite or decussate, (3–)4–8(–9.5) cm long, (3.5–)4–8(–11) cm wide, orbiculate or ovate, leaf margins dentate, shallowly lobed or moderately lobed or deeply lobed, palmately lobed, leaf lobes 3–5 per leaf, leaf apices acuminate or acute or obtuse, leaf bases cordate or obtuse or rounded. Leaf upper surface green, glabrous or glabrate. Leaf lower surface gray or green or silver, glabrate or pubescent, hirsute or pilose. Leaf venation palmate. Petioles (2–)4–8 cm long, glabrous or glabrate or pubescent, pilose. Stipules present or absent, caducous.

Flowers. Flowering March or April or May. Inflorescences terminal, corymbs or simple umbels, flowers stalked. Flowers bisexual or unisexual or pistillate or staminate. Perianth. Calyx radially symmetric, synsepalous. Sepals (4–)5(–12) per flower, calyx tubes 1.5–2.5(–4) mm long, green or red or yellow or yellow-green, sepal margins ciliate, sepal apices obtuse, pubescent, hirsute, persistent. Corolla absent. Androecium. Stamens 7–8 per flower, separate, anthers 1–1.5 mm long. Gynoecium. Ovaries superior, pistils 1 per flower. Gynoecium syncarpous, 2 carpels per flower, styles 2 per pistil, styles 1–2.5 mm long, stigmas 1.5–5 mm long, placentation axile. Other floral features. Hypanthia present.

Fruits. Fruits mericarps or samaras or schizocarps, (1.5–)2–2.5(–3) cm long, green or tan, fruit maturation 1 years.

Habitat. Habitat bottomland forests or dry-mesic upland forests or mesic upland forests or mixed forest edges or suburban plantings.

Special Diagnostic Characters. Sides of terminal leaf lobes are more or less parallel; leaf sinuses are rounded; tips of leaf lobes often droop.

Cite this publication as: ‘Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White (2005 onwards). Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont: Identification, Descriptions, Illustrations, and Glossary. Version: March 7, 2006. <>’.

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