Maple, the common name of trees of the genus acer (Celtic ac, hard), belonging to the natural order sapindacece, of which with two other genera it forms the suborder acerinecr. There are about 50 species, distributed in North America. Europe, northern Asia, -lava, and the Himalayas; some are small shrubs and others large trees, frequently with a saccharine sap and rarely with a milky juice; the leaves are opposite, deciduous, simple, palmatcly three-to seven-lobed, rarely entire. The flowers are in axillary and terminal racemes and usually polvgamo-diorious; i. e., some have stamens only, others pistils only, or both orgaua may be in the same flower; the usually five-parted calyx is colored and deciduous; petals wanting or when present as many as the lobes of the calyx; stamens four to twelve, inserted upon a disk; pistil of two united ovaries with two styles; from the back of each ovary grows a wing converting the fruit into two one-seeded keys. Our North American species of which there are about 10, differ in their time of flowering; in some the flowers appear long before the leaves, others produce their flowers at the time the leaves untold, and in others they do not appear until after the foliage is well developed. - Our commonest species is the red or swamp maple (it. rubrum); this and the next, the silver maple, flower in March and April, and perfect their seeds about the first of June; when the seeds fall, they germinate in a few days, and by the autumn of the same vear form a young tree one or two feet high; this peculiarity must be observed by those who would raise these trees, as the seeds will not retain their vitality if kept until the following spring.
The red maple is found in swamps and damp woods from Canada to the gulf of Mexico, and is also known as the soft, the swamp, and the white maple, which last name should be discarded, as it properly belongs to the next species; it is usually a small tree, though it sometimes reaches 00 or 70 ft., with a diameter of 2 or 3 ft.; the young twigs are red, and gradually change to a clear ashy gray. This is a conspicuous tree when in bloom in early spring, as its flowers are produced in such profusion as to make the tree appear at a distance as a mass of color, varying from crimson to scarlet; the individual trees differ much in shade, some being very pale, while others are exceedingly brilliant; the leaves vary greatly in size and shape, and the number and depth of the lobes. The trees with pistillate or perfect flowers produce a profusion of fruit, which makes them objectionable near a garden, as the seeds find their way to every nook and the young maples spring up as weeds. The beauty of our autumn landscape is largely due to the brilliant colors assumed by the foliage of the red maple; it presents every shade of orange, scarlet, and crimson, and these colors, together with green, are frequently to be found upon the same leaf.
The wood is white with a tinge of rose color, fine, close, and smooth; it is used for a great variety of turned work and for making the cheaper kind of furniture; it is a useful wood for any purpose if it is not to be exposed to dampness. Some of the trees, in which the fibres take a serpentine course, afford the handsome wood known as curled maple, valued for inside work and for gun stocks; other varieties are known as landscape and mountain maple. As a fuel, the wood of red maple ranks below that of the sugar or rock maple; it burns rapidly and does not make a lasting fire. The bark is used in domestic dyeing, forming with iron salts a good black. - The white or silver maple (A. dasy-carpum) is more common in the western than in the eastern states, but it is more or less abundant along rivers from Maine to Georgia; as the red maple is often called white maple, the two trees are frequently confounded, but they are readily distinguished by the color of the young twigs, which in this species are green, while in the other they are red, and by tie- silvery whiteness of the under surface of the leaves, which has given one of its common names to this species.
The leaves are usually nve-lobed, with the lobes deeply and handsomely toothed; the flowers, which appear before the leaves, are greenish yellow; the fruit, the early ripening of which has been mentioned, is downy when young, but smooth wdien ripe; the two wings diverge widely and are about 2 in. long. The tree grows to about 50 or 60 ft. with very spreading limbs; specimens with a circumference of 12, 10, and 18 ft. are recorded, but the usual diameter is about 2 ft. On account of the wide spread of its branches and its fine foliage, this is much valued as a shade and ornamental tree; but as the wood has little strength, the branches are apt to be broken by gales and by accumulations of snow and ice. -For planting in prairie countries no tree is more highly prized than this, as by its rapid growth it gives a quick return in valuable fuel. The wood is soft, white, and fine-grained, but it has little strength and is very perishable; hence its use as lumber is limited; as a fuel it is much esteemed. - The most valuable of all our species is the sugar or rock maple (A. saccharinum), which is most abundant north of lat. 40° and east of the Mississippi; in the southern states it is found only along the mountains.
The tree when young is usually very symmetrical, and indeed somewhat too formal in its outline, but when old it assumes a great diversity of forms, which seem to depend upon soil and situation; it sometimes reaches 70 or 80 ft., but is usually much smaller. The leaves are broader than long, often heart-shaped at base, three- to five-lobed, with the sinuses or spaces between the lobes rounded, while in the two species above mentioned these arc acute. The flowers, which appear with the leaves, are greenish yellow, in umbeldiko clusters upon very slender hairy pedicels; the fruit, which has a broad wing, ripens in October, and if intended for sowing should be kept through the winter in damp sand. As an ornamental tree the sugar maple has been strangely neglected in this country; its growth is quite slow when young, and nurserymen prefer to produce more rapidly growing trees; as a tree to plant in the streets of towns and villages, and along country roads, it has great merit; not the least of its excellent qualities is the great brilliancy of its autumnal colors. The wood is one of the most valuable for fuel, ranking next to hickory, and for charcoal it is esteemed above all others.
While the wood of some trees is perfectly straight-grained, that in other specimens presents marked and often elegant varieties; the curled hard maple presents a pleasing surface of light and shade, and the bird's-eye maple has its fibres so singularly contorted as to produce numerous little knots which look like the eye of a bird; these varieties and others are much valued for cabinet work of various kinds and interior finishing, while the straight-grained wood is used for making lasts, buckets, tubs, and a variety of other useful articles; it is also employed in ship building. The sap of this species contains cane sugar, a fact recognized in its common and botanical names; other maples, the birches, hickories, and some other trees, yield sugar, but none of them in such large quantities or in so pure a state as the sugar maple. On many farms a maple orchard or sugar bush, as it is called, is an important part of the property, and yields a good share of the yearly income. The trees are tapped by boring near the ground, a tube, frequently of elder, inserted, and a vessel is set or hung to catch the sap as it trickles out; the flow begins in early spring, often in February, and is most abundant when there are warm days and frosty nights.
The process of making the sugar is often very crude, and consists of merely collecting the sap and boiling it down in kettles over an open fire; when sufficiently concentrated the sirup is poured into moulds to granulate. Of late years much more care is given to the manufacture of the sugar, and a house is provided expressly for the purpose, and furnished with improved evaporators and other apparatus to facilitate the operation; there is a large demand for maple sirup, and some makers send all their sugar to market in this form. According to the census of 1870, the total production of maple sugar in the United States was 28,443,645 lbs., in 28 different states, of which the following contributed the largest amounts: New Hampshire, 1,800,704 lbs.; Vermont, 8,894,302; Massachusetts, 399,-800; New York, 6,692,040; Pennsylvania, 1,545,917; Virginia and West Virginia, 755,-699; Kentucky, 209,416; Ohio, 3,469,128; Indiana, 1,332,332; Wisconsin, 507,192. The total quantity of maple molasses or sirup returned was 921,057 gallons.
The black sugar maple, which was described by Michaux as a distinct species, is now regarded as only a variety (var. nigrum) of the ordinary sugar maple; the leaves are less deeply lobed, and the whole tree has a darker appearance; it is said to be more productive of sugar. - The striped maple or moose wood (A. Pennsyivanicurn) is a small and slender tree from 12 to 20 ft. high, found in rich woods from Maine to Wisconsin and southward along the mountains; its branches and trunk become striated with dark lines, giving a character by which the tree is readily identified; the leaves are three-lobed at the apex and doubly serrate; the flowers, which do not appear until after the leaves, are in terminal pendulous racemes, and the cluster of fruit is quite conspicuous, In the northern woods the young twigs of this tree are browsed upon in winter by the moose. The wood is regarded as more durable than that of any other maple, but it is too email to be of much value; it is said to reach three or four times its ordinary size if grafted upon the larger species of maple. Its chief value as an ornamental tree; its ample leaves, which at the time of opening are rose-colored, the striped appearance of the trunk, and the conspicuous flowers and fruit all commend it to the attention of the planter.
The mountain maple (A. spicatum), found in the same range as the moosewood, is rather a tall shrub than a tree, and forms clumps in moist woods; the three-to five-lobed leaves are downy beneath, and their very long petioles become scarlet in September; the flowers are in terminal, usually erect racemes, and the fruit, which is smaller than in any other of our native species, has very divergent wings. - The large-leaved maple (A. macrophyllwn) of the Pacific coast is especially abundant in Oregon, associated with the firs and spruces; it is a remarkably graceful tree, from 40 to 90 ft. high, with* widely spreading branches and a rough brown hark; it is very conspicuous on account of its very large leaves, which are sometimes a foot,broad, though variable in size; they are deeply five-lobed and rather thick; the flowers are in large pendent racemes, yellow and fragrant. and succeeded by clusters of hairy fruit with smooth, slightly diverging wings. The wood of this species is close-grained and hard, and according to Nuttall handsomely veined; it is much valued in Oregon as furnishing almost the only hard wood obtainable in some parts of the state; its sap is said to be abundant and saccharine.' This magnificent tree has been so little planted in the Atlantic states that it- hardiness cannot be considered as fairly tested.
Another far western species is the round-leaved maple (A. circinatnml called in Oregon the vine maple on account of its manner of growth; in the moist forests several steins spring from the same root and arch over until the tops reach the ground, where they take root and thus form an almost impenetrable thicket; it sometimes grows 20 or 30 ft. high, but has more the habit of a shrub than of a tree. The leaves are heart-shaped, seven- to nine-lobed, about the size of those of the red maple; the flowers are purplish, and the fruit is remarkably divaricate; the wood is heavy, fine-grained, and valued for making handles and other small articles. The smooth maple (A. glabrum) of the Kocky mountains is a small shrub with leaves resembling those of the common currant in size and shape; its foliage is variable, and one form has been described as a distinct species, A. triparti-tum - Among the exotic species cultivated in this conntry, the largest and finest is the sycamore maple (.1. pseudo-platanm); it attains the height of 60 ft. or more, with wide-spread-im: branches; specimens in England have reached loo ft. with a diameter of 0 to 9 ft.; its foliage resembles that of the sugar maple, hut the leaves are much larger, somewhat downy beneath, and on long reddish petioles; the flowers are in long racemes, and the fruit has only moderately spreading wings; the wood is much esteemed in Europe for turners' work and other uses.
There are several varieties of this species, one of which has purple leaves, and another with leaves variegated with yellow. The trees does not well bear transplanting when large. The Norway maple (A. platanoiilen), from northern Europe, is probably more generally planted, at least in the eastern states, than any other species; though of hut slow growth when young, after four or five years from the seed it increases very rapidlv, and form a tree On ft. or more high; the contour of the tree is much like that of the sugar maple, and the leaves somewhat resemble those of that species. This tree can he readily distinguished hy the milky juice of the leaves, which is best seen on breaking the petiole; the fruit is smooth, the wings diverging in a straight line. It is most valuable shade tree, especially fur streets and avenues; for this use it has some advantages over the sugar maple, as its foliage is more dense, and appears earlier and holds on later; it is remarkably free from the attacks of insects, a fact that lias been ascribed to its milky juice. The eagle's-claw and the shred-leaved maples are accidental form. of this.
This common European or English field maple (A. campestre), as seen in this country, is scarcely more than a bush, seldom above 10 or 15 ft. high; in the south of Europe it grows much larger; its heart-shaped leaves are 2 to 3 in. broad, and five-lobed; flowers in short erect clusters and wings of the fruit diverging horizontally; there are several named varieties which differ from the type in foliage; the wood makes excellent fuel, and when large enough is used for cabinet and other work. Its chief value with us is as a lawn tree; it makes a regular and formal growth, and when well developed and branching to the ground presents a dense mass of foliage as broad as it is high. The Candian (A. Creticum), almost an evergreen, the Tartarian (A. Tartaricum), the Montpellier (A. Monspesmlanum), and the Colchian maple (A. Colchicwn), and some others, are met with in collections of rare trees. A highly ornamental class of maples is found in Japan, several of which have been introduced into this country by Mr. Thomas Hogg; these include varieties of A. pahnatum, A.po-lymorphwtn, and others of which the species are not determined; they present a great variety in the lobing and dissection of their leaves and the most exquisite variegations in color. - The ash-leaved maple, called acer negundo by Liniucus and Michaux, is now placed in a separate genus, negundo, which differs from acer in having perfectly dioecious flowers and pinnate leaves.
There are but three or four species of this genus, which is peculiar to North America and Japan. The common species is N. aceroides, which is found from the Red river of the North to North Carolina, but mainly westward, and is more abundant on the banks of streams than elsewhere. It is a rapid-growing tree when young, but is short-lived on dry soils; in favorable situations it becomes a fine tree 40 to 00 ft, high, but is usually much smaller; it forms a handsome round head with dense foliage; its compound leaves have three or five leaflets, which are ovate, pointed, and toothed; the staminate flowers are in small clusters, and the pistillate ones in racemes, which later are several inches long and conspicuous on account of the numerous fruits, like those of the maple, with incurved wings. The wood is similar to that of the red maple, and useful for fuel. The ahundant sap yields sugar, and it is by some regarded as purer than that afforded by the sugar maple. This tree is in the western states generally called box-elder, and is a favorite with those engaged in tree planting upon the prairies, a purpose for which its rapid growth well adapts it; and though not long-lived, it will furnish both fuel and sugar while slower but more valuable kinds are growing.
It is much valued as an ornamental tree, its symmetrical growth and neat habit making it suitable for the lawn. A variegated form of this has been recently introduced, in which the leaves are abundantly marked with white; a specimen of this seen against a background of evergreens produces a striking effect in landscape gardening.
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharinurn).
Kycainore Maple (Acer pseudo-platanus).
Common European Maple (Acer campestre).
Ash-leaved Maple (Negundo aceroides).