Sugar Maple vs Black Maple – What’s the difference?

Maples have always been popular and common. They are widely grown, and there are around 132 species all around the world. Sugar maple and black maple are among the popular species of maple. They both are very similar to one another and are often referred to as a member of the same species. However, they can be distinguished by their leaf characteristics.

Sugar Maple vs Black Maple – Difference

Sugar maple and black maple can hybridize and form intergrades, which makes it very difficult to distinguish them from one another. However, they can be differentiated regarding their leaves and their characteristics. Also, the barks and the patterns of barks of these two maples can be identified separately. In the leaves of sugar maple, the lobes at the base generally do not overlap, while in black maple leaves, the leaf lobes often overlap. The barks of sugar maple are smooth, while black maple usually has irregular barks.

These are the main differences between the two. Let us discuss them in more detail below.

Sugar maple

Sugar maple, scientifically known as Acer saccharum, is a widely grown tree in eastern Canada and the northern American region. Sugar maple is primarily known for its source of maple syrup, but it is also popularly grown as a shade tree and an ornamental tree as it is a large shade-tolerant deciduous tree.

The leaves of sugar maple are lobed, and the lobes nearer to the base generally do not overlap. Also, the leaf margins are pubescent, but the stems connecting the leaf to the twig are almost hairless, and even the undersides of the sugar maple leaf usually lack hairs. Further, the lobes have deep sinuses between them, and the front lobe is often wider at the tip.

The barks of sugar maple usually have wider vertical furrows and ridges compared to others. The flowers of the sugar maple are yellow in color, and they can be both monoecious and dioecious. The sugar maple fruit is very popular for its sweet taste, which helps make maple syrup.

Black maple

Black maple is a species of maple that is native to the eastern North American region and is very similar to sugar maple. However, it is not very common as sugar maple and is only found in specific areas. Habitats of black maple usually include rich mesic woodlands and moist bottomland. They are the most vulnerable maple species to wildfire.

The leaves of the black maple are lobed, and the lobes near the base of each leaf often overlap. Black maple leaves are known to have petioles, which are the stems joining the leaf to the twig, and the undersides of the leaves are pubescent, unlike sugar maple leaves. Further, the lobes have shallow sinuses, and the front lobe is much wider at the base.

The barks of black maple have more narrow vertical furrows and ridges compared to sugar maple. And black maple can be both monoecious and dioecious concerning flowers. Fruits of black maple are pairs of winged seeds that ripen in autumn.

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