Silver maple flowers

Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) was in full bloom a few weeks ago.  All trees bloom.  We are sometimes unaware of this because forest trees are usually not as showy as dogwoods and Ohio buckeye.  Forest trees flower early, some as early as February.  They are wind pollinated, so flowers are mostly anthers that release pollen and stigmas that catch it.  No need for colorful petals.  The flowers are borne up in the branches and hard to see until you get an eye for them.

Counting on wind to make the connection is chancy, so lots of pollen is produced.  Tree pollen in the spring is a big source of hay-fever.

Silver maple flowers. Female cluster on top, male on the bottom

Flower clusters are either male or female on the same tree.  Male clusters tend to bloom earlier closer to the main trunk, with females out toward the tips, likely to increase the chances for outcrossing.

Silver maple is our most common street tree in Indianapolis.  They used to be favored because they grow quickly.  Because of this quick growth, they tend to be weak trees that are often brought down in ice or wind storms, so they have fallen out of favor. 

Silver maple has nice gray bark with a sculptural quality

In their natural habitat of riparian corridors along creeks and rivers, growing quickly to beat floods is an advantage. 

 I’m wondering if red maple gets its common name from its flowers.  They are striking red this year.  Silver maple must come from the silver undersurfaces of the leaves.  You can easily see these on a windy day.

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