Plant & Flower Identification

Silver Maple Vs Red Maple- Top Differences Ever!

Which should I choose, silver maple vs red maple? For a sunny garden, adding a maple tree as a shade tree stimulates the ecosystem to grow and enhances the picture of your living area.

But of course, choosing between the two most beautiful maples, the red and silver maple, will surely give you more headaches than ever.

This article provides you with their differences through helpful information regarding their identification and growth characteristics. Explore for answers!

Silver Maple Vs Red Maple- Main Differences

silver maple vs red maple

As its name suggests, the red maple is easily spotted by its vibrant red color covering the entire body, fruit, branches, and flowers.

In addition to red sugar maple, it has other names such as water maple, soft, and swamp maple.

Meanwhile, silver maple is much more common in color and is also known by various names such as soft maple, water maple, creek maple, white maple, and large maple.

These two mature trees are from the same family, so they have much in common regarding appearance and development characteristics.

But if you wonder about their differences, scroll down, and we’ll give you a detailed breakdown.


The appearance of two maple trees planted close together only fools the inexperienced!

When assessed closely, you can easily spot large differences in identifying characteristics of silver maple vs red maple.

Main Living Areas

The silver maple is native to central and eastern Canada and the United States. It grows most commonly in floodplains and river banks.

Meanwhile, the red maple is native to the East and Central North United States and has wide green coverage across the continent.


Regarding growth rate, these deciduous trees are medium to fast-growing (about 12-24 inches per year).

However, this speed indicator can change depending on living conditions. The above maple species can only achieve their best vitality in cool climates, medium fertility,  well-drained, and moist soils.

Red maple usually matures to a size ranging from 65-100 ft or 20-30 m tall. Meanwhile, the silver maple is much more vigorous as it can grow up to 80-115 ft (25-35m tall).


The young bark of these two maple species is very smooth with a dominant light brown color. The older the silver maple is, the more cracked the gray bark becomes.

Meanwhile, the bark of the red maple becomes darker and rougher.


The silver maple leaf resembles a green palm with 5 deep lobes (2 small lateral and large middle lobes). Its length ranges from 3 to 6 inches with a width of 2-5 inches.

Depending on size, red maple leaves have only 3-5 shallower lobes and are 6-10 inches long. Its shallower lobes are much smaller than the upper lobes.

In late winter, any maple tree will turn color and drop its leaves, except red and silver maple.

Silver maple puts on a carpet of leaves as vibrant as the sun, while red maple comes to life as the leaves turn purple or fiery red.


Both plants can produce male and female flowers simultaneously during their flowering season.

The attractive flowers of the silver maple appear before the leaf buds between February and March, where the female flowers are red, and the male flowers are green.

The flowering season of red maple comes later (March to April) and produces only attractive red flowers. However, you can easily identify the sex of flowers thanks to the obvious size difference.


These two wild plants produce winged and paired fruits that grow in clusters (also known as samara), which look like beautiful butterfly wings.

The winged fruit of the silver maple is pink, yellow to brown, 1-1.2 inches long, and elongated.

Meanwhile, the fruit of red maple is only 0.5-1 inches large. The brilliant color changes from fiery red to green and tans more over time.

Wood Workability 

Both red and silver maple have excellent machinability because of the wood quality.

Although it is easy to handle with machines and hand tools, it is unsuitable for working with high-speed devices (such as routers).


sugar maple silver maple

Because of its strength and lightness, the wood of the red maple tree is often used to make boxes, pallets, crates, or souvenirs.

It is more resistant to dents and scratches than maple, resulting in wood appearing in homes for interior purposes, such as wall cladding or flooring.

Silver maple wood is suitable for producing furniture, such as shoe cabinets, tables, and chairs. It is reasonable to use wood veneers that improve the look of wooden interior projects.

In addition, it is also the main food source that squirrels love in the spring.


While the two native trees above are prime candidates for shade in your large garden, they still have some disadvantages that deserve your consideration.

The wood of the silver maple is not sustainable, as recognized by IUCN and CITES, resulting in the workpieces being more susceptible to rotting and deterioration.

Because of the large branches, it is easy to break in the rainy season.

Red maple also doesn’t have the standard durability, resulting in poor peacock rotting resistance. Its root ball is quite shallow, making it impossible for other common cultivar plants to grow near its base.

In addition, the leaves of this plant are very susceptible to fungal infections, causing small red-brown or tan spots on the leaf blades.

Although both seedling trees are odorless, direct contact with or scent of this plant can cause a runny nose, asthma, and skin irritation in people with sensitive immune systems.


red maple vs silver maple

Which Maple Is Strongest?

The answer is the Norwegian maple! It can thrive in the harshest conditions, such as sandy, nutrient-poor, rocky, clay, and alkaline soils.

Thanks to its strong vitality and rapid growth, it also appears to limit air pollution and smog in urban areas.

Are Japanese Maples Red?

The foliage of the Japanese maple is full of vibrant colors depending on the season, typically pink, bright orange, purple, green, and red.

Normally, this plant’s leaves will be bright red in the spring, green in the late summer, and orange-yellow in the fall.

Is Silver Maple Good For?

Silver maple is often used to make furniture, such as boxes, crates, shoe cabinets, or veneers. Some places also process it into paper, flooring, or used as firewood.

Some Last Words

All kinds of maple are generally easy to grow, highly adaptable, and extremely good cover crops.

But before choosing a new shade tree for your garden, let’s look closely at the information about silver maple vs red maple for a more comprehensive insight into their differences.

Take good care of your plants, avoid direct contact, and you will have a beautiful shady garden. Good luck!

Samuel Mark

Hello I am Samuel. Samuel's Garden is a garden blog where I share my experiences in garden caring and tree growth. Hope you enjoy it!

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