Medium-sized maples, often more than 9 metres 30 feet tall, include the big-toothed maple A. Coliseum maple A. The three-flowered maple A. The ash-leaved maple, or box elder , is a fast-growing tree of limited landscape use.
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The Norway maple A. Large maples, usually in excess of 30 metres high, that are much planted for shade include the sugar A. The Oregon , or bigleaf, maple A. The Sycamore maple A. In one group of maples, the vertically striped silvery-white young bark provides an attractive winter landscaping feature. These trees are the striped maple A. The chalk maple, with whitish bark, is sometimes classified as A. The parlour maples, or flowering maples, are bedding and houseplants in the genus Abutilon.
Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: temperate forest: Flora. The leaves in most species are palmate veined and lobed, with 3 to 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.
Maple species, such as Acer rubrum , may be monoecious , dioecious or polygamodioecious. The flowers are regular, pentamerous , and borne in racemes , corymbs , or umbels.
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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 appearance of the leaves, but in some before the trees leaf out.
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 fruits are called samaras , "maple keys", "helicopters", "whirlybirds" or "polynoses".
These seeds 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. People often call them "helicopters" due to the way that they spin as they fall. However, one tree can release hundreds of thousands of 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.
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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 Acer together with genus Dipteronia are either classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae , or else classified as members of the family Sapindaceae. Recent classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in Sapindaceae.
When put in family Sapindaceae , genus Acer is put in subfamily Hippocastanoideae. The genus is subdivided by its morphology into a multitude of sections and subsections. Fifty-four species of maples meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature criteria for being under threat of extinction in their native habitat.
The leaves are used as a food plant for the larvae of a number of the order Lepidoptera see List of Lepidoptera that feed on maples. In high concentrations, caterpillars, like the greenstriped mapleworm Dryocampa rubicunda , can feed on the leaves so much that they cause temporary defoliation of host maple trees. In horticultural applications a dimethoate spray will solve this.
In the United States and Canada, all maple species are threatened by the Asian long-horned beetle Anoplophora glabripennis. Infestations have resulted in the destruction of thousands of maples and other tree species in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Maples are affected by a number of fungal diseases. Several are susceptible to Verticillium wilt caused by Verticillium species, which can cause significant local mortality. Sooty bark disease , caused by Cryptostroma species, can kill trees that are under stress due to drought. Death of maples can rarely be caused by Phytophthora root rot and Ganoderma root decay.
Maple leaves in late summer and autumn are commonly disfigured by "tar spot" caused by Rhytisma species and mildew caused by Uncinula species, though these diseases do not usually have an adverse effect on the trees' long-term health. A maple leaf is on the coat of arms of Canada , and is on the Canadian flag. The maple is a common symbol of strength and endurance and has been chosen as the national tree of Canada.
Maple leaves are traditionally an important part of Canadian Forces military regalia, for example the military rank insignia for generals use maple leaf symbols. There are 10 species naturally growing in the country, with at least one in each province. Although the idea of the tree as a national symbol originally hailed from the province of Quebec  where the sugar maple is significant, today's arboreal emblem of Canada rather refers to a generic maple. It is also in the name of Canadian ice hockey club Toronto Maple Leafs. The first attested use of the word was in as "Mapole", and it also appears a century later in Geoffrey Chaucer 's Canterbury Tales , spelled as "mapul".
The maple is also a symbol of Hiroshima , ubiquitous in the local meibutsu. Some species of maple are extensively planted as ornamental trees by homeowners, businesses and municipalities due to their fall colour, relatively fast growth, ease of transplanting, and lack of hard seeds that would pose a problem for mowing lawns.
Particularly popular are Norway maple although it is considered invasive in North America , silver maple , Japanese maple , and red maple. Other maples, especially smaller or more unusual species, are popular as specimen trees. Numerous maple cultivars that have been selected for particular characteristics can be propagated only by asexual reproduction such as cuttings, tissue culture , budding or grafting. Acer palmatum Japanese maple alone has over 1, cultivars, most selected in Japan, and many of them no longer propagated or not in cultivation in the Western world.
Maples are a popular choice for the art of bonsai. Japanese maple Acer palmatum , trident maple A. Maple collections, sometimes called aceretums , occupy space in many gardens and arboreta around the world including the "five great W's" in England : Wakehurst Place Garden , Westonbirt Arboretum , Windsor Great Park , Winkworth Arboretum and Wisley Garden. In the number of species and cultivars, the Esveld Aceretum in Boskoop, Netherlands is the largest in the world.
Maples are important as source of syrup and wood. Dried wood is often used for the smoking of food. Charcoal from maples is an integral part of the Lincoln County Process used to make Tennessee whiskey.
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The sugar maple A. While any Acer species may be tapped for syrup, many do not have sufficient quantities of sugar to be commercially useful. The maple syrup industry is concentrated in Quebec, Canada and worth about half a billion Canadian dollars annually. Some of the larger maple species have valuable timber , particularly Sugar maple in North America, and Sycamore maple in Europe.
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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 manufacture of wooden baseball bats , though less often than ash or hickory due to the tendency of maple bats to shatter if they do break. Today it is the standard maple bat most in use by professional baseball. Maple wood is often graded based on physical and aesthetic characteristics. The most common terminology includes the grading scale from common 2; which is unselected and often used for craft woods; common 1, used for commercial and residential buildings; clear; and select grade, which is sought for fine woodworking.
Some maple wood has a highly decorative wood grain , known as flame maple , quilt maple , birdseye maple and burl wood. 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.
These select decorative wood pieces also have subcategories that further filter the aesthetic looks. Maples have a long history of use for furniture production in the United States. 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 another major tonewood used in instrument manufacture. The back, sides, and neck of most violins , violas , cellos , and double basses are made from maple.
Electric guitar necks are commonly made from maple, having good dimensional stability. The necks of the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster were originally an entirely maple one piece neck, but later were also available with rosewood fingerboards. Les Paul desired an all maple guitar, but due to the weight of maple, only the tops of Gibson 's Les Paul guitars are made from carved maple, often using quilted or flamed maple tops. Due to its weight, very few solid body guitars are made entirely from maple, but many guitars have maple necks, tops or veneers.