Content Detail

Black maple, once considered a separate species (Acer nigrum), is now considered a subspecies of sugar maple (Acer saccharum ssp. nigrum). It displays similar characteristics of a dense, rounded crown; dark, furrowed bark and brilliant fall color. It is a commonly planted tree in this region. 

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research

  • Family (English) Soapberry (formerly Maple)
  • Family (botanic) Sapindaceae (formerly Aceraceae)
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 60-75 feet
  • Mature width 40-50 feet
  • Light exposure Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily), Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest early fall, early spring, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Oval, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Moderate
  • Planting considerations Commonly planted
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

Black maple is commonly found in moist sites. C-Value: 5

Bark color and texture:

The bark is dark gray to almost black and deeply furrowed.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Simple leaves are in pairs (opposite) and three to six inches long. The leaf is a little thicker than sugar maple with drooping edges giving an almost wilted appearance. Pubescent (hairy) are on the lower surface. Stipules will often present with the leaves. The five lobed leaves are dark green in summer, changing to yellow in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

There are small, pale yellow flowers in pendulous clusters. These are Inconspicuous by themselves, but can be showy when the whole tree is in flower.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The fruit are winged seeds in pairs (samaras). They are one inch long. They start out as green and mature to brown.

Plant care:

Avoid pruning Black maple in early spring as maples are ‘bleeders’ and will lose large amounts of sap.

List of pests and diseases:

Susceptible to leaf scorch, verticillium wilt, maple tar spot and anthracnose. Pests include borers and cottony maple scale. Black maple suffers from salt, drought, and air pollution. It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Greencolumn black maple (Acer saccharum ssp. nigrum ‘Greencolumn’): 

A cultivar with an upright, narrow (20 feet wide) form and good heat tolerance.


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