Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Earliest of Trees

Housman called the cherry, "The loveliest of trees." Well, the Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) may not be the loveliest, but it is one of the earliest bloomers. According to Don Kurz' Trees of Missouri, it may bloom as early as January in our state! It prefers moist soil and is common along creeks and streams. It is a prolific seeder, and the "whirlibird" seeds (samaras) find their way into urban yards, alleys, and vacant lots. Those early flowers are not showy, but nevertheless they're welcome, especially after the amount of snow and ice we've had in the midwest this year. They must be even more welcome to the hardy insects that venture out in the short winter thaw.

Silver Maple gets its name from the underside of the leaves, which shows white and pale green. When the wind whips these leaves, displaying that silvery underside, you know you're in for another summer cloudburst.  Limbs are likely to crash down to the yard during that storm since the wood is brittle. Ice storms take their toll too. After a limb splinters, the tree often develops heart rot. In a few years, screech owls or starlings might make a home in the cavity.

I've never heard of anyone tapping Silver Maples for sugar, but according to, although its sugar content is low, the syrup has been used to treat coughs and liver disease.

I snapped my photos of the maple blooms last weekend. Houseman said in A Shropshire Lad:
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung in snow.


  1. I doubt if tapping a silver maple would be worth the trouble. Many of the maple buds came off during our ice storm, + they did look like they had been swelling a bit... I don't think I've ever looked up close beforen, as in your photo. Interesting

  2. We had more sleet yesterday, and more snow is predicted, but these blooms seem to be pretty resistant. I guess they're prolific enough to compensate for losing buds and limbs. Looking forward to spring! Thanks for your comment!