Acer saccharum Marsh.

Fully hardy deciduous tree with a dense rounded crown and large, broadly ovate, mid-green, 3-5 lobed leaves which turn brilliant orange to red and yellow in autumn.  To 40m. An economically important tree, it is tapped for its sap in spring, the source of maple sugar, and also produces the highly prized birds-eye maple timber for cabinet making.  [RHSD, Hilliers’].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Botanically described in 1785 by Humphrey Marshall as Acer saccharum. ‘This grows to a large tree of two feet or more in diameter, and fifty or sixty feet high. the leaves something resemble the Silver-leaved Maple, but are not so large, nor deeply lobed; or of so fine a silver colour. It flowers in manner of the Scarlet Maple, but the flowers are of an herbaceous colour; and produces large joined winged seeds. The back inhabitants make a pretty good sugar, and in considerable quantity, of the sap of this and the Silver-leaved Maple; and though these have generally been preferred, yet all our maples yield a sap which affords a pretty good sugar.’ [Arbust. Amer. p.4/1785].

Acer barbatum is one of the most widely and generally distributed trees of eastern North America. The northern limit of its range on the Atlantic coast is southern Newfoundland; it extends southward through Canada and the northern states and along the Alleghany Mountains to northern Georgia and western Florida, and westward along the valleys of the St. Lawrence and the Saguenay, by the shores of Lake St. John and the northern borders of the Great Lakes to the Lake of the Woods, and in the United States to Minnesota, eastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, and eastern Texas. It is one of the common trees in all these regions, especially at the north and on the slopes of the southern mountains, growing on rich uplands and on intervale lands mingled with Ashes and Hickories, the White Oak, the Wild Cherry, the Black Birch, the Yellow Birch, and the Hemlock; or often at the north forming the principal part of extensive forests.

The wood of Acer barbatum is heavy, hard, strong, close-grained, and tough, with a fine satiny surface susceptible of receiving a good polish; it is light brown tinged with red, with thin sapwood composed of thirty or forty layers of annual growth, and contains numerous thin medullary rays. The specific gravity of the absolutely dry wood is 0.6912, a cubic foot weighing 43.08 pounds. The wood of the Sugar Maple is more valuable and more generally used than that of any other American Maple. It possesses a high fuel value, burning with a clear steady flame; it is largely used for the interior finish of buildings, especially for floors, in the manufacture of furniture and in turnery, in shipbuilding for keels, keelsons, shoes, etc., for the handles of tools, and for saddle-trees; and in the United States shoe-lasts and pegs are made almost exclusively from this wood. Accidental forms in which the grain is beautifully curled and contorted, known as “curled maple” and “bird’s eye maple,” are common and highly prized in cabinet-making. The ashes of the wood are rich in alkali and yield large quantities of potash; and maple-sugar is principally made from the sap of this species.’ [Sargent – Silva of North America vol.2, p.98/1892].

Introduced to Britain in 1735.  [JD].

History at Camden Park

Macarthur clearly identifies this tree as Sugar Maple, the common name of Acer saccharum Marsh., rather than Silver Maple, the common name of Acer sacharrinum L.  The former is likely to be the tree grown although it could be either.  Macarthur was probably interested in its possibilities as a source of Maple Syrup.

Grown in the gardens before 1843.  Listed in all published catalogues [T.16/1843].


Published Feb 19, 2009 - 05:22 PM | Last updated Jun 14, 2011 - 04:48 PM

The line illustration shows deeply lobed leaves and detail of flowers and winged fruits.

Acer saccharum Marsh as Acer barbatum Michx. | Sargent - Silva of North America vol.2, t.XC /1892 | BHL

More details about Acer saccharum Marsh.
Family Aceraceae
Region of origin

North America

  • Acer barbatum f. commune Ashe
  • Acer saccharinum var. glaucum Pax
  • Acer saccarophorum K.Koch
  • Acer nigrum var. glaucum (Schmidt) Fosberg
  • Acer palmifolium Borkh.
  • Acer hispidum Schwer.
  • Acer subglaucum Bush
  • Acer treleaseanum Bush
Common Name

Sugar Maple

Name in the Camden Park Record

Acer sacharrinum - sugar maple 

Confidence level medium