Florida maple

Acer saccharum subsp. floridanum
Family: Sapindaceae

Natural History
Leaves of Florida maple
Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida

The Florida maple is a medium-sized, deciduous tree that commonly reaches 30 feet tall, although the record growth of this tree is 128 feet tall. In natural areas, this tree is generally found below the canopy in the midstory where it can tolerate shade, and in moist to wet ecosystems. The leaves turn yellow to red in the fall and the tree generally holds on to dead leaves through much of the winter. This tree is a subspecies of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) that occurs farther north in the Appalachians.

Habitat & Range

The Florida maple grows in habitats with moist, well-drained soils such as hardwood hammocks, bottomland hardwoods, and along stream banks, or on limestone ridges on the coastal plain and Piedmont areas. It does not grow well in dry habitats. Its native range is from southeastern Virginia to Florida and west to westernmost areas of Oklahoma and Texas.

Wildlife Use

The wildlife value of the Florida maple is unknown.

Human Use

This tree is of little value as a timber species and is used for pulpwood, sawtimber, and veneer. It is also used in landscapes because it makes an excellent shade tree.


 

Identifying Characteristics

Size/Form: Florida maple is a smaller tree than sugar maple, but it has a similar large, dense, round crown.
Leaves: Leaves are simple, opposite, and deciduous. The leaves of the Florida maple are significantly smaller than those of Acer saccharum, and are blue-green in color. They are palmate with 5 lobes. The leaf margins are entire or irregularly toothed at wide intervals.
Twigs: The twigs are slender, shiny, reddish-brown. The pith is white and homogeneous.
Bark: The bark is light gray and smooth, becoming darker, thicker, and more furrowed as the tree matures.
Flowers: This tree can be either dioecious (male and female flowers occur on separate plants) or monoecious (male and female flowers occur on the same plant). Individual flowers are on long, hairy, drooping stalks.
Fruit: The fruit is a reddish-brown double samara, which occurs in clusters on slender stalks. Wings are thin and about 1 inch in length.
Similar Trees on the Florida 4-H Forest Ecology Contest List:
  • American Sycamore has a similar leaf shape, but the leaves are alternately arranged.
  • Red Maple also has opposite, simple leaves.

 

Images

Click on any thumbnail to see a photo. Use left and right arrows to navigate. Use "esc" to exit the lightbox.

 

Learn More