This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
From the Red Maple, with which it is sometimes confounded, it may be easily, distinguished by the silvery whiteness of the under surface of the leaves, and by the color of the spray. The flowers come out in April, before the leaves. The beauty of the finely cut foliage, the contrast between the rich green of the upper surface of the leaves and the silver color of the lower, and the magnificent spread of the limbs of the White Maple, recommend it as an ornamental lawn tree; and as such it has been extensively introduced in our lawns, parks, towns, villages, and cities.
The Rock Maple is a well-known native tree, valuable both for the production of sugar, and for its wood; its stately growth, and fine form and foliage, make it desirable as an ornamental and shade tree. It is easily distinguished from the other maples by the roundness of the notch between the lobes of the leaves, which in others is somewhat acute. This tree, which is also called Hard Maple, from the character of its wood, and Sugar Maple, from the character of its sap, is in all respects the most remarkable of the family. When young it is a beautiful, neat, and shapely tree, with a rich, full, leafy head, of a great variety of form, enlarging upward and forming a broad mass above, or tapering at each extremity and full in the middle, supported by an erect, smooth, agreeably clouded column, with a clean bark, and a cheerful appearance of vigor. In open pastures, on moist hills and mountain sides, it forms a broad pyramidal top, the branches coming out horizontally or with a graceful upward curvature from a point eight or ten feet from the ground.
On the plain, in deep, moist, clayey soils, the top assumes the shape of a massive cylindrical column of great height, often seventy or eighty feet.
The leaves are bright green and smooth above, pale glaucous, and at first downy; afterwards, smooth beneath. On different trees they differ strikingly in their color, being sometimes of a dark and sometimes of a light green on their upper surface. In autumn they become, often before the first touch of the frost, of a splendid orange or gold, sometimes of a brighter scarlet or crimson color, each tree commonly retaining, from year to year, the same color or colors, and differing somewhat from every other.