Morphology - What is this I am looking at?

This photo was taken by Derek Anderson from University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. It shows how the bark flakes as the tree ages.Acer saccharinum is also known as silver maple. When trying to identify this silent species their are multiple things to look at: bark, leaves, flowers, seeds, and roots.

These trees grow to be 50 - 80 feet tall, and an average of 3 feet in diameter. They are fast growing, and have a broad, rounded crown. The branches bend downward from the trunk before turning upward at the tips. When the tree is young the bark is gray and smooth, but as it gets older the bark forms long flakes, and becomes a darker reddish color. 

The most identifiable characteristic is the leaves. They arePhotograph was taken by Paul Drobot from University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. It shows the leaf structure of Acer saccharinum.between 4 and 6 inches long and wide; each leaf has five sharp lobes, and five veins. The top surface is a light green, while the underside is a silvery white. When the wind blows, the silvery underside reveals itself giving Acer saccharinum the common name of silver maple. In autumn the leaves turn a yellowish brown in color before falling to the ground for winter.

This photo was taken by Murel Black from University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. It shows the flowers of Acer saccharinum.The most difficult way to distinguish Acer saccharinum from its closest relative, Acer rubrum, is the flowers. Both Acer rubrum and Acer saccharinum have bright red flowers. The flowers are small, and appear on short stalks of the tree.  Though at times Acer saccharinums' flowers look more greenish the largest difference in flowers is the blooming period.  Over a week before the Acer rubrum blooms, Acer saccharinums' flowers open, thusly the Acer saccharinum is the earliest blooming maple.

The fruit of Acer saccharinum is the largest fruit created by a native United States maple. Each pollinated flower of the tree creates a fruit. These fruit look like a helicopter by connecting two wings, each called a key, that are 90 degrees apart. Each key is between 40 and 70 millimeters long. Only one of the two wings develops a seed in their ribbed seedcase. By late spring the seeds are mature; this is close to the same time that the leaves become fully mature. At this time each key is let off individually.

The last morphological characteristic is the root system. Unlike many trees there is not a single taproot. Because of their habitat, Acer saccharinum has a very shallow, hair-like, root system.

Learn about the classification of this species.