Possible Black Maple in Central CT

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jcruddat
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Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2016 5:28 pm

Possible Black Maple in Central CT

Post by jcruddat » Sun Aug 28, 2022 9:24 pm

I found what looks to be a black maple (Acer nigrum) sapling on top of a mountain in Simsbury, CT. Perhaps the leaves of sugar maple and black maple look the same when young, although I am not sure. Any thoughts?
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Thanks,
Jack

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Possible Black Maple in Central CT

Post by Erik Danielsen » Tue Aug 30, 2022 8:14 am

These are all consistent with Acer saccharum. Those with more simplified lobing are typical of leaves in full sun (such as upper canopy leaves) and A. saccharum will often have some leaves even more simplified into three lobes than these. Similarly with the one with near-overlapping basal lobes- it's less typical in A. saccharum but many leaves on a given tree will still show it. The number and length of attenuate tips on the leaf in the first photo are not compatible with A. nigrum. The best leaf traits to check for A. nigrum are the presence of fuzzy pubescence across the leaf surface underside and petiole, stipules or stipule scars at the end of the petiole, and the leaf undersurface at a fine scale is simply light green in A, nigrum, whereas in A. saccharum there's a slightly glaucous waxy layer that makes the undersurface noticeably paler (similar to the difference between Fraxinus americana and Fraxinus pensylvanica).

There's a lot of confusion about these two species, and a lot of the reference material doesn't help. Leaf shape in both varies enough to be misleading. On older trees, despite what various guides and books say about "darker bark," A. nigrum's mature bark is a chalky pale gray, almost white, and on young and middle-aged trees I find it's usually not darker than A. saccharum either, though distinct in texture.

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jcruddat
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Re: Possible Black Maple in Central CT

Post by jcruddat » Tue Aug 30, 2022 7:10 pm

Hi Erik,
Thank you very much for your response. I had a hard time finding much on the internet comparing sugar maple and black maple other than the leaf shape and apparent darkness of the bark. Your post has provided me with a lot more information to reference.

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