Maples are mostly trees growing to 10-45 meters (30-145 ft) in height. Others are shrubs less than 10 meters tall with a number of small trunks originating at ground level. Most species are deciduous, but a few in southern Asia and the Mediterranean region are evergreen. Most are shade-tolerant when young, and are often late-successional in ecology; many of the root systems are typically dense and fibrous. A few species, notably Acer cappadocicum, frequently produce root sprouts, which can develop into clonal colonies.
Maples are distinguished by opposite leaf arrangement. The leaves in most species are palmate veined and lobed, with 3-9 (rarely to 13) veins each leading to a lobe, one of which is central or apical. A small number of species differ in having palmate compound, pinnate compound, pinnate veined or unlobed leaves. Several species, including Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple), Acer mandshuricum (Manchurian Maple), Acer maximowiczianum (Nikko Maple), and Acer triflorum (Three-flowered Maple), have trifoliate leaves. One species, Acer negundo (Box-elder), has pinnately compound leaves that may be simply trifoliate or may have five, seven, or rarely nine leaflets. A few, such as Acer laevigatum (Nepal Maple) and Acer carpinifolium (Hornbeam Maple), have pinnately-veined simple leaves.
The flowers are regular, pentamerous, and borne in racemes, corymbs, or umbels. They have four or five sepals, four or five petals about 1–6 mm long (absent in some species), four to ten stamens about 6-10 mm long, and two pistils or a pistil with two styles. The ovary is superior and has two carpels, whose wings elongate the flowers, making it easy to tell which flowers are female. Maples flower in late winter or early spring, in most species with or just after the leaves appear, but in some before them.
Maple flowers are green, yellow, orange or red. Though individually small, the effect of an entire tree in flower can be striking in several species. Some maples are an early spring source of pollen and nectar for bees.
The distinctive fruit are called samaras or "maple keys". These seeds, or 'whirlybirds,' occur in distinctive pairs each containing one seed enclosed in a "nutlet" attached to a flattened wing of fibrous, papery tissue. They are shaped to spin as they fall and to carry the seeds a considerable distance on the wind. Children often call them "helicopters" due to the way that they spin as they fall. Seed maturation is usually in a few weeks to six months after flowering, with seed dispersal shortly after maturity. However, one tree can release hundreds of the seeds at a time. Depending on the species, the seeds can be small and green to orange and big with thicker seed pods. The green seeds are released in pairs, sometimes with the stems still connected. The yellow seeds are released individually and almost always without the stems. Most species require stratification in order to germinate, and some seeds can remain dormant in the soil for several years before germinating.
The genus is subdivided by its morphology into a multitude of sections and subsections.
Maples are important as source of syrup and wood. Dried wood is often used for the smoking of food. They are also cultivated as ornamental plants and have benefits for tourism and agriculture.
The Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is tapped for sap, which is then boiled to produce maple syrup or made into maple sugar or maple taffy. It takes about 40 liters of Sugar Maple sap to make a liter of syrup. Syrup can be made from closely-related species as well, but their output is inferior.
Some of the larger maple species have valuable timber, particularly Sugar Maple in North America, and Sycamore Maple in Europe. Sugar Maple wood, often known as "hard maple", is the wood of choice for bowling pins, bowling alley lanes, pool cue shafts, and butcher's blocks. Maple wood is also used for the production of wooden baseball bats, though less often than ash or hickory due to the tendency of maple bats to shatter when broken.
Some maple wood has a highly decorative wood grain, known as flame maple and quilt maple. This condition occurs randomly in individual trees of several species, and often cannot be detected until the wood has been sawn, though it is sometimes visible in the standing tree as a rippled pattern in the bark. Birdseye maple is another distinctive grain pattern.
Maple is considered a tonewood, or a wood that carries sound waves well, and is used in numerous musical instruments. Maple is harder and has a brighter sound than Mahogany, which is the other major tonewood used in instrument manufacture.
Most drums are made from maple. From the 70s to the 90s, maple drum kits were a vast majority of all drum kits made. In recent years, Birch has become popular for drums once again. Electric guitar necks are commonly made from maple. The necks of the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster were originally an entirely maple one piece neck, but later were also available with rosewood fingerboards. Maple fingerboards have a brighter sound than rosewood. The tops of Gibson's Les Paul guitars are made from carved maple. Many Les Pauls have quilted or flamed maple tops, and these models are particularly prized by players and collectors. Very few solid body guitars are made entirely from maple, as it is considered too heavy. Many guitars do, however, have maple tops or veneers. Gibson uses laminated maple in the manufacture of many of its semi-hollowbody guitars. The back and sides of most violins are made from maple.
Maple is also used to make bassoons and double basses. he Sugar Maple is one of the most important Canadian trees, being (with Black Maple) the major source of sap for making maple syrup; Sugar Maple being regarded as slightly better. Many maples can be used as a sap source for maple syrup, but none of the others are considered as good as these two.
The wood is one of the hardest and densest of the maples (being 740kg per cubic meter), and is prized for furniture and flooring. Bowling alleys and bowling pins are both commonly manufactured from sugar maple. Trees with wavy wood grain, which can occur in curly, quilted and "birdseye maple" form, are especially valued. Maple is also the wood used for basketball courts, including the floors used by the NBA, and it is a popular wood for baseball bats, along with white ash. It is also widely used in the manufacture of musical instruments, such as the members of the violin family (sides and back) guitars (neck) and drum shells.
Canadian Maple, often referred to as "Canadian Hardrock Maple", is prized for pool cues, especially pool cue shafts, and the highest grades of this white wood are used by virtually all (both production line and custom hand-made) cue makers to make high-quality shafts. Some production-line cues will use lower-quality Canadian Maple wood with cosmetic issues (such as "sugar marks", which are (most often) light brown discolorations that are visible on the shaft, caused by sap from the wood. Great shaft wood has a very consistent grain, and no marks or discoloration. Sugar marks usually don't hurt anything and do not affect how the cue plays, but are not as high of quality as those without it.)
The Sugar Maple is a favorite street and garden tree, because it is easy to propagate and transplant, is fairly fast-growing, and has beautiful fall color. The shade and the shallow, fibrous roots may interfere with grass growing under the trees. Deep well-drained loam is the best rooting medium, although Sugar Maple can grow well on sandy soil which does not become excessively dry. Light (or loose) clay soils are also well known to support Sugar Maple. Poorly drained areas are unsuitable and the species is especially short-lived on flood-prone clay flats. Its salt tolerance is low and it is very sensitive to boron.
Sweet Maple Autumn Leaves
Sweet Maple Autumn Leaves - November 03, 2009
Maple Tree - September 24, 2009
Sweet Maple Leaf
Big Cottonwood Canyon - September 18, 2009