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: dense, rounded crown; dark, furrowed bark; and brilliant fall color. It is a commonly planted tree in this region. This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
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.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Residential and parks,
- City parkway,
- Wide median
- Shade tree,
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
- Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Moderately Tolerant
- Commonly planted
- Fall color
Season of Interest:
- Early spring,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Insect pollinators
Tree & Plant Care
Avoid pruning in early spring as maples are 'bleeders' and will lose large amounts of sap.
Disease, pests, and problems
Susceptible to leaf scorch, verticillium wilt, tar spot and anthracnose.
Pests include borers and cottony maple scale.
Suffers from salt, drought, and air pollution.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Native geographic location and habitat
Commonly found in moist sites.
Bark color and texture
Bark is dark gray to almost black and deeply furrowed.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple leaves in pairs (opposite); 3 to 6 inches long. Leaf is a little thicker than sugar maple with drooping edges giving an almost wilted appearance. Pubescent (hairy) on the lower surface. Stipules often present with the leaves.
The 5 lobed leaves are dark green in summer, changing to yellow in fall.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Small, pale yellow flowers in pendulous clusters.
Inconspicuous by themselves, but can be showy when the whole tree is in flower.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fruit are winged seeds in pairs (samaras); 1 inch long.
Green, maturing to brown.
Cultivars and their differences
Greencolumn black maple (Acer saccharum ssp. nigrum 'Greencolumn'): A cultivar with an upright, narrow (20 feet wide) form and good heat tolerance.