Silver Maple’s Good and Bad Days

I’m a wood person. I love trees. Back when we were shopping for a house, I was immediately smitten with our current house because of the two large shady trees in the backyard — one maple and one magnolia. They both have spreading branches that shaded the yard beautifully.

The maple has a large crown and leaves turned to golden yellow in the fall. It looks like a torch of gold from afar. The magnolia produces numerous large beautiful white flowers from spring to early summer.

I love lying on a hemlock in the shade, reading a book, occasionally looking up to the beautiful maple leaves with sliver of blue sky sneaking through, and taking naps listening the whisper of the wind that comes and goes through the leaves.

However during the fall leaves always drop like mad. No matter how often we swept the yard, it would again be carpeted with a thick layer in half an hour. Ever since we moved in, Mom has threatened to cut them down many times. Especially during the stormy days during Bay Area’s winter, their branches tend to bend so low that they cast frantic and massive shadows on both of our bedrooms’ windows. It was scary.

This morning I noticed an army of ants were shuttling between an evergreen bush and the maple tree. Further investigation yield a dead patch in the maple¡¯s root system exposed to the sunny side above ground. The inner fiber had been turned into soft sponge like soft wood, and many insects had turned the patch into a massive apartment complex, including the ants. The tree is now leaning toward the other side, which is where our house stands. It put fear in my heart.

Google found a few pieces of useful information for me. It seemed everyone on the internet newsgroup had something bad to say about Silver Maple: it grows fast but is fragile so its branches break easily during storm and could cause much damage to the property; its leaves were too abundant to rake; its root system is shallow so it often destroys lawns and sidewalks, or even grows into drainage systems; its crown shape is not graceful and produces an unkempt look; it has a short life span (25-30 years only), etc. etc. etc.

Everything is telling me the sensible thing to do is to cut it down. But I also found out Silver Maple is native to North America, and it is a very hardy tree. It can tolerate both drought and flooding, poor soil condition, and poor air qualities. It prefers acidic soil but easily adaptable to dry alkaline ones¡­

I¡¯ve also checked up all the disease and insect problems Silver Maple is prone to. Our tree is not showing any of the symptoms. In fact, its clean and beautiful green leaves are showing its solid health. We¡¯ve pruned it a couple of winters ago, so its major branches look sturdy so far.

This is its land. It was here first. But I don¡¯t want to wake up one winter morning and find my house with a hole punched through, either.

I¡¯m torn. : (

A thorough information sheet on Silver Maple compiled by US Forest Service.
Summary of common diseases and insects with links to pictures. (It is a large page with lots of information for various trees, search for “silver maple” on the page.)

2 thoughts on “Silver Maple’s Good and Bad Days

  1. Silver maple is native to North America. The USFS link gives a huge range where it can be planted but I wonder what the natural range is. My parents have several types of maples on their property but I always was a little sad that they didn’t have the maples that produce the intense red and orange colours. When we did tap trees for sap we always asked a neigbour with Sugar Maples and used their trees. I read on a site that Silver Maple also can be used for Maple Syrup:

  2. 🙂 You are a true Canadian! 🙂
    That time when we pruned it, it was a heavy handed job. The next spring we did see a kind of syrup sipped through from its “wounds”. It attracted all kinds of insects. Even the leaves turned sticky. Our lawn was one sorry sticky ground. I guess all the tiny creatures in our yard were high on sugar that year.

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