TREES & plants

Sugar maple

Sugar maple showing bright orange yellow fall color.

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. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name: 
Acer saccharum
All Common Names: 
sugar maple, hard maple, rock maple
Family (English): 
Soapberry (formerly Maple)
Family (Botanic): 
Sapindaceae (formerly Aceraceae)
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
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 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Commonly planted, 
  • Intolerant of pollution
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color
Season of Interest: 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval, 
  • Round, 
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Game birds, 
  • Game mammals, 
  • Insect pollinators, 
  • Small mammals, 
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

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

C-Value: 3

Bark color and texture

Bark is gray brown and deeply furrowed.

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)photo: John Hagstrom
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color

Simple leaves in pairs (opposite); 3 to 6 inches long.
The 5 lobed leaves are dark green in summer, changing to yellow, orange and red 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

These plants are cultivars of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."

Crescendo™  (Acer saccharum ‘Morton’)30  to 40 feet high and 30 feet wide; broadly oval shape.
Tolerant of heat and drought once established.  Dark green leaves that turn an orange-red in the fall.
Introduced by The Morton Arboretum through Chicagoland® Grows.

Fall Fiesta®  (Acer saccharum 'Bailsta'):  60 to 70 feet high and 40 to 50 feet wide; oval to rounded shape.
Leathery glossy green leaves turning yellow, orange, and red in fall.  Faster growing than other sugar maples.

Green Mountain  (Acer saccharum ‘Green Mountain’):  50  to 60 feet high and 45 to 50 feet wide; upright, oval shape.
Adaptable to moderately high pH.   Tolerant of heat and dry conditions.  Dark green leathery foliage that turns orange and golden yellow during fall.
Thick leaves that are resistant to leaf scorch.

Acer saccharum or Sugar maple