The indentations between the 5 points in the reds' leaves are very
shallow and notched, not rounded like other maples. Silvers
have deep, lacy cuts between the leaf points, and silver undersides.
Next, the Norways' buds swell into fat boxing gloves at the branch
tips. In late April, the buds burst into fist-size lime green
corsages. Like the silver and red, the Norways' leaf out after
flowering. Come autumn, the Norways are the yellow ones.
Just days after the Norways bloom, the sugar maples put forth
miniature, light olive green leaves above long flower fringes.
In summer, it will be hard to tell the sugar and Norway leaves apart.
Acid test: break off a leaf at its base, if white sap comes out, it's a
Lastly, the Japanese maples, distinguished by their small size and
graceful trunks, put out their leaves, some emerging bright scarlet.
The flowers follow. BTW: Maples with summer-time red or bronze
leaves are varieties of the Japanese and Norway - not the red - maple.
In my area, prior generations too often chose Norways. Their
oceans of lime-green flowers still perfectly set off the other spring
flowers. But Norways don't "play nicely with others";
their dense shade and thick roots crowd out all competition, even
wildflowers and grass. And each year, they still send off thousands
of helicopter seeds with a disastrously high germination rate. The
forests north of town glow Norway-yellow in the fall but are missing the
delicate wildflowers that I loved as a child and lack the bio-diversity
necessary to soften the effect of devastating environmental plagues like
the Dutch Elm Disease and the Asian Long Horn Beetle.
In some areas, Japanese maples have also become invasive in the forest
understory to the detriment of our native dogwoods, blueberries, mountain
laurels, and viburnums, to name a few.
By all means, plant trees; we desperately need them. And choose
maples but stick to the natives. Could anyone leave a great
gift to the next generation than a sugar maple?