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The Silver Maple is an important food source for honeybees at a time of year when little else is available that it is worth the trouble to find a place for it near your bees. These trees bloom very early, February, March, April depending on your latitude. Not only do they bloom early but they bloom heavily. Should a freeze get some of the flowers, more will open soon giving pollen and nectar to the early foraging bees.
If you have Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers in your neighborhood, they will come to your trees and drill rows of shallow holes. These holes just go into the cambium of the tree without doing any long term damage to the tree. The secret of these holes is that on winter days when the daytime temperature is above freezing and the nightime temperature is below freezing the tree will weep a sugary sap. Honeybees stir on these sunny late winter days and will gather the sweet sap. It is a great natural sugar source. Bees will collect it while there is still snow on the ground if the daytime temperatures are in the 40’s and they don’t have to fly too far.
They get their name from the silvery underside of the leaf. During the spring and summer, before it rains, the rising air before a storm will turn the leaves up so the underside shows turning the whole tree a striking silver. Often this occurs many hours before a rain making this tree a pretty good indicator of changing weather.
Silver Maple, Acer saccharinum has for many years been a tree of choice for new home landscapes. It grows fast and makes good shade quickly but like all trees, it has a few drawbacks. It is shallow rooted and as those roots grow they rise above the soil line and make a lumpy lawn. They produce a large number of winged seeds called samaras (helicopters) which fly on the wind in late spring. Some people consider any tree that drops anything to be messy, they are are just doing their tree things. The wood is known as soft maple, soft being a relative term. It is softer than Sugar Maple but not as soft as pine. Trees are sometimes used by a native Ambrosia Beetle that leaves the creamy white wood streaked with dark brown stains. This is known as “Wormy Maple” and is quite desireable to some woodworkers.
This is very much a right tree, right place kind of tree. It grows well in wet places, along stream banks or pond banks. It will also grow in drier areas. Because of the surface roots, it is probably not the best choice for a lawn tree but it is great for areas that are not getting mown closely like a lawn, fence rows and stream banks, wood lots and such.