Tree spotlight: Acer saccharinum

Ah, the silver-leaf maple. The bane of my life, tearing up footpaths and demolishing parking areas on a lvel akin to a plane tree. But alas, there’s an odd attractiveness to the species. Perhaps it’s the fact it’s so darned hardy that it just seems to persist through any sort of pruning regime, or even the fact I just feel it’s struck a hard end of a deal being planted in such cramped spaces because it can be. Personal musings aside however, this tree is well-used in many new towns across the UK, and so was – at least at one point – held in high regard.

The silver-leaf maple is both large and very fast growing in many urban environments and, as established, it is very hardy, tolerating all but the driest of sites. It can also tolerate significant encroachment into its rooting environment from development (or simply from a lack of a rooting environment to begin with). This makes it a good selection for an urban setting, particularly where rooting space is restricted.

However, this tree isn’t small – it can reach 30m in height in ideal settings, and in urban areas it can easily reach 15m. If it is left to adopt a mature form without any form of management, be prepared to resort to simply ‘topping’ the tree. Where it has been worked as a sort of pollard however, and knuckles build up, it can actually look very lovely and be retained in a more enclosed environment with partial ease (though its vigorous re-growth will lead to it needing to be pruned every one to three years). Despite this, it will very likely send up an abundance of basal sprouts, which are far from appreciated when the tree sits in the middle of a residential car park.

Additionally, its brittle branches mean it is prone to windthrow (though I have yet to see a large branch fail), and leaves may scorch in areas with restricted soil space during dry spells in the summer – as may its roots simply destroy any hard surface surrounds.

So what do to with the silver-leaf maple? For me, it’s overly-used in the wrong sort of place, though on a wider street verge this tree can become a domineering individual with landscape importance. I would rather its wonderful form not be battered by a chainsaw.

A rather impressive specimen within the front garden of a property in the US. Source: Treebrowser.
Tree spotlight: Acer saccharinum

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