Content Detail

Sugar maple is a Midwest native loved for its exceptional fall color ranging from brilliant yellow to burnt-orange. In summer, its lustrous foliage provides excellent shade, making it a great choice for parks, golf courses, and home landscapes where its roots can spread. Black maple (Acer nigrum), once considered a separate species, is now included as a subspecies of sugar maple.

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 Residential and parks
  • 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 Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil
  • Season of interest early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Oval, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Commonly planted, Intolerant of pollution
  • Wildlife Game birds, Game mammals, Insect pollinators, Small mammals, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size and form:

Sugar maple’s mature height is 60 to 75 feet with a mature width of 40 to 50 feet. It has an oval, round, upright form. 

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is a native to eastern United States including Illinois. C-Value: 3

Attracts birds, pollinators and mammals:

It attracts insect pollinators, songbirds, game mammals and game birds.

Bark color and texture:

The bark is gray-brown and deeply furrowed.

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

Sugar maple has simple five-lobed, 3 to 6 inch dark green leaves in pairs (opposite). In fall they change to yellow, orange, and red.

Flower description:

Although inconspicuous by themselves, the small, pale yellow flowers in pendulous clusters can be showy when the whole tree is blooming in spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruit are 1 inch green winged seeds in pairs (samaras) that turn brown when mature.  

Plant care:

Plant in full sun to full shade with moist, well drained soil. It is tolerant of clay and alkaline soil. Avoid pruning maples in spring as they are ‘bleeders’ and will lose large amounts of sap.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

It is susceptible to leaf scorch, verticillium wilt, tar spot, and anthracnose. Pests include borers and cottony maple scale. It does not tolerate salt, drought, or air pollution. It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.


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