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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Sugar Maple

Sugar Maple

(Acer saccharum Marsh)

  Sugar maple, or hard maple, is common only on the cool slopes of our higher mountains. It generally is a slow-growing tree but grows faster in the open. Its foliage provides heavy shade.

Sugar maple leaves are opposite, palmately lobed and veined and have five lobes (in rare cases, three lobes) that are separated by rounded, shallow sinuses. Leaves are 3 to 5 inches in both length and width. They are heart-shaped, with sparse, large, pointed teeth on the margins. In autumn, sugar maple leaves are exceptionally colorful, turning brilliant shades of red and yellow.

Sugar maple flowers are yellow, and grow on long, slender stems in clusters up to 3 inches long. They appear with leaves in spring.

The fruit, a U-shaped pair of winged seeds, ripens in the fall. The bark of mature trees is thick, light gray to brown and is broken by vertical furrows into plate-like scales. The sap is used to make maple syrup and maple sugar.

The pale brown or pink wood is hard, heavy, strong and close grained. It is known commercially as hard maple and is used in the manufacture of flooring, furniture and a great variety of novelties such as toys, coat-hangers, and turnery.

Chalk maple, black maple and Florida maple are varieties of sugar maple that grow in North Carolina and have been described as three separate species.

Black maple grows in the mountains; chalk maple grows in the Piedmont; and Florida maple grows in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. The leaves of each of these trees are smaller than those of sugar maple; all typically are three-lobed, with few, if any, serrations.
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