Determining what type of tree you have can sometimes be tricky. Do you have a silver maple in your garden but don't know whether it's softwood or hardwood? What is the difference between these two classifications? Are maple trees all the same kind of wood?
Luckily, we've done extensive research into this topic and have the answers below!
Although some maple trees fall into the hardwood category, silver varieties do not. That's because silver maple trees have softer, lighter, and weaker wood, disqualifying them from being considered a hardwood.
However, that's not to say you can't use silver maple tree wood for construction or other garden projects: it just won't be as sturdy as a "harder" wood option.
As we start this article, we will cover all things silver maple trees and discuss whether they're hardwood or not. If you have this tree in your garden and want to see what you can use it for, you're in the right place. With that said, let's dive right into this post and answer some questions!
Are Silver Maple Trees Considered Hardwood?
No. Unfortunately, silver maple trees don't qualify as hardwoods. That is due to their wood being softer, lighter, and weaker overall, which can qualify them as more of a softwood variety.
Silver maples belong to the Aceraceae family and feature a popular type of wood you will often find in cabinets and furniture. Even though this tree isn't hardwood, that doesn't mean it is useless.
In addition, the silver maple is much softer than its relative, the sugar maple, in terms of wood quality. Therefore, it won't be as durable or hard, so you might not want to choose it for high-traffic areas.
Again, regardless of variety, maple wood tends to be incredibly versatile, although some trees fall into the softer wood category.
According to experts, silver maple wood has a Jenka hardness of around 700 pounds, which is still very impressive.
Which Maple Trees Are Considered Hardwood?
For those who need a maple tree with hardwood, you want to stick with the sugar maple or the black maple variety.
Many experts consider these maples to be 'hard maple,' which describes the only two types of trees in this species that qualify for a hardwood classification.
According to Forest Plywood, you can use hard maple for flooring, furniture, cabinets, pool cues, and many other finished wood products. So, if you have a sugar or black maple tree, there's more you can use it for versus a silver variety.
Again, all maple trees typically produce nice wood, but not all can withstand the same amounts of weight, pressure, and treatment.
As we mentioned, soft maple is where the rest of the maple species will fall. Their wood will still be durable and great for building, just not to the same extent as hard maple varieties.
What Is Silver Maple Wood Good For?
If you have a silver maple tree in your yard that you want to utilize, there are plenty of ways to do this. Generally, you can use silver maple wood for flooring, cabinetry, making paper, and even firewood.
Silver maple trees aren't hardwood, so you don't want to use them for a high-traffic, heavy-weight project. Instead, focus on keeping your wood as lumber, which you can sell or use at home.
Especially if you're somewhere cold, harvesting the wood from your silver maple can keep the whole house warm until spring, so that's exciting news for silver variety growers!
In addition, you can sometimes harvest the sap from silver maple trees and turn it into syrup, so that's another option if you want to keep your tree growing.
Regardless, silver maple (and maple trees in general) are very beneficial.
Is Silver Maple Wood Good For Burning?
Yes! Silver maple wood is excellent for burning, whether in a fireplace, fire pit, wood stove, or campfire. Since silver maple is harder than most softwoods, you can use it for various tasks/building projects.
Additionally, your silver maple wood makes perfect lumber, which you can use or sell. According to Utah State University, silver maple wood is relatively easy to split, making it ideal for firewood.
On top of that, silver maple wood produces low smoke and has 95% Green Ash, plus 19.0 heat per cord.
So, from a fire-starting perspective, silver maple wood is a great choice. As we mentioned, this wood is also great for other non-burning activities, and you can even harvest its sap for syrup making.
What Makes A Tree A Softwood?
For those wondering what makes a tree a softwood, this comes down to where the wood comes from. For example, a softwood tree's wood comes from gymnosperm trees such as conifers.
On the other hand, hardwood tree wood comes from angiosperm trees. The key difference between these classifications is that hardwoods lack resin canals, whereas softwoods lack pores.
Furthermore, a hardwood species will handle high-traffic areas better than a softwood. So, you want to stick to hardwood for your flooring or home's structure.
According to Len Academy, five factors make wood soft:
- Most softwoods have a lower density than hardwood
- Softwood is generally cheaper than hardwood
- Hardwood trees tend to grow faster than softwoods
- Most softwoods do not shed their needle-like leaves
- Softwoods are less fire resistant (hence why they make excellent firewood)
So, you can see a few significant differences between softwoods and hardwoods. There are also advantages to softwoods that hardwoods don't have, like them being better suited for firewood, so that's a plus.
You can also find softwood materials cheaper than hardwood options, which is perfect for bigger projects you may need to budget for.
Are Softwoods Better Than Hardwoods?
When it comes to whether softwood is better than hardwoods, this depends. Although softwoods aren't as strong as hardwood species, they have many benefits.
One major benefit of softwood is that it's easier to work with. So, even though your wood may not be suitable for heavy-duty projects, it can be less of a hassle to construct or cut apart during a smaller project.
On the other hand, since softwoods are easier to cut and work with, they won't last as long as hardwoods. That might not be an issue for furniture or interior finishes, but it can become an issue outside.
Additionally, softwood trees grow faster than hardwoods. Hardwoods have thicker, denser wood because of their extended growing period.
So, there are ways in which softwoods are technically "better," and the same goes for hardwoods.
Where Can You Grow A Silver Maple Tree?
Most often, silver maples grow best in temperate northern and mid-southern climates in the U.S. and Canada. These majestic trees prefer moderate weather and can thrive in places that become cold.
However, many gardeners have had success growing maples just about everywhere throughout the United States, as this species is easy to manage.
The key is starting a silver maple off right. Ideally, you will plant your tree as soon as the frost is out of the ground. This typically happens in early spring for most of North America, although every region is slightly different.
Once you have your tree in the soil, you want to keep it moist and give it plenty of nutrients. Again, this species is not difficult to cultivate, so silver maples won't be divas by any means.
On top of good soil conditions and proper planting, you also want to ensure your silver maple is somewhere with plenty of sunshine. Especially for maples: the more sun, the better!
How Big Does A Silver Maple Get?
In most situations, you can usually expect a silver maple tree to grow up to 80 feet. However, your tree can stop growing at around 50 feet, so this can depend on the tree.
On top of its colossal height, a silver maple also boasts an impressive spread between 35 and 50 feet.
So, we recommend planting one somewhere with plenty of wiggle room, as your tree's roots can also take up quite a bit of space.
Silver maples are notorious for their destructive, invasive root systems, so if you have a few hundred feet of the garden open, your tree will do best there.
In addition, silver maple will only thrive if it has the conditions and space. So, if your tree is right on top of another one or too close to a structure, don't expect it to surpass 50-80 feet.
How Long Will My Silver Maple Tree Live?
Although this can vary, the average lifespan of a wild silver maple tree is around 130 years. However, if your tree is in an urban environment, that lifespan could be as short as 35 years.
Like most tree species, silver maples prefer open land and clean, fresh air. Most of the time, urban settings are polluted, cramped, and shady, all negative factors for a maple.
Therefore, if you want to keep your tree growing for decades or even a century, you'll want to grow it out in the open.
To Wrap It All Up
Whether you have a silver maple tree growing in your garden or want to plant one, it's always helpful to understand its wood. From what we found, silver maples are considered softwood, although they are still relatively hardy.
On top of that, a silver maple tree can be used for many things, including furniture, paper, firewood, or even home detailing. There are endless ways to utilize silver maple wood, even by harvesting your tree's sap to make fresh syrup.
One thing to remember is that softwood isn't as durable or long-lasting as hardwood. So, don't use it for major projects or high-traffic, weather-prone areas.
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