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 sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest early spring, early fall, 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) are 3 to 6 inches long. The leaf is a little thicker than sugar maple with drooping edges, giving an almost wilted appearance. Pubescence (slight hairiness) is found on the lower surface. Stipules are 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 1 inch long winged seeds in pairs (samaras), which start out green and mature to brown.

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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