The spreading beauty of maples is no secret. More yards than not feature either native or planted maples in their landscapes. Maybe you are planning on planting a maple, or perhaps you are just curious, but either way, you want to know if maple trees flower annually. Well, in this post, we gather up-to-date research about many maple tree species to answer your question.
Maple trees do flower every year. However, most maple tree flowers are so small that they are very difficult to notice. These buds usually come on in the spring and, if you look closely, can be very attractive. In addition, a few species of maple trees have much more robust and noticeable blooms.
Keep reading the rest of this post for more details about maple tree blossoms. We cover both male and female flowers. In addition, we provide a list of flower appearances for many primary North American maple trees. To close, we answer important related questions.
Maple Tree Flowers
There are many common maple trees in North America, including both native maple trees and species imported for use as ornamentals and landscape additions. While the various flowers of these trees are all different, they are generally quite small and red, white, yellow, or green.
Usually, the flowers emerge as stalks off of the terminal branch end. Often, the stalk has petals at the base and again around the flower at the head of the bud - sometimes, these come in different colors. The overall shape of the flowers is similar to a lily, albeit much smaller.
When the tree is leafed out, these flowers are all but invisible. However, take the time to notice the splashes of color dotting the bright green of the early spring foliage. This effect is particularly striking when the maple tree flowers are red.
When Do Maple Trees Flower?
As maple trees grow in a very diverse range of environments, it is difficult to pinpoint when all these trees will flower. Generally, you can expect the buds to appear in spring between April and June. However, some species, such as the silver maple, will bloom even in late winter. The timing shifts are based not only on weather but also on species.
As a rule of thumb, you can expect your maple tree to flower every single year. However, trees that are unhealthy or are not receiving the proper nutrients may not flower. If you do notice that your maple tree is not flowering properly, take the time to research and remedy whatever is lacking in your tree's life.
Why Do Maple Trees Flower?
Like all flowering plants, maple trees flower in order to produce seeds to help populate the next generation of maples. Most maple flowers are pollinated by insects including butterflies and bees but they can also be wind-pollinated. As these flying critters visit maple flowers, they get a light sugary snack. In return, they spread pollen from male to female flowers.
This spreading of genetic material helps produce a more robust next generation of maples. Like all flowers, pollinated maple buds eventually turn into a fruit or seed. Maples have unique fruit called samaras. These are commonly known as shuttlecocks and make for excellent childhood toys.
Are There Male and Female Maple Flowers?
Yes, maple tree flowers are usually either male or female. This contrasts with some flowers, which have male and female parts all in the same blossom; rarely, this occurs in maples as well. Further, the entire maple trees can produce all male flowers, all female flowers, or a mix of both female and male flowers.
How can you tell if a maple tree is male or female?
The easiest way to tell if a maple tree is male or female is to closely inspect the flowers when they emerge in the spring. A male flower has a long stamen that pokes out past the petals. At the end of this stamen, you will find pollen. Pollen is a powdery substance designed to stick to the body of pollinators or be blown in the wind.
Female flowers are generally shorter and only have small protrusions past the petals. These protrusions are known as stigma and usually look sticky. This is because they are designed to catch pollen from the wind or from pollinators.
Using these descriptions, you should be able to tell which sex your tree is. However, you might want to take the time to research the specific species for simpler identification. Further, if you look at the entire tree, you might find that you have both female and male flowers on one tree.
Maple Tree Flowers By Species
In this section, we cover the flower types for many common landscape maple trees. Maples considered here include the silver maple, the Norway maple, the Japanese maple, the red maple, the sugar maple, the vine leaf maple, and the big leaf maple.
Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
This article from the Ohio State University provides a good overview and pictures of silver maple flowers. The flowers are usually greenish-yellow for the female flowers but are much redder in color for the male flowers. The silver maple flowers are relatively small but are still quite beautiful when viewed up close.
Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)
Norway maple flowers are bright green in color, and both male and female flowers are sometimes found on the same tree. The flowers emerge in groups of 10 to 30 buds which makes the whole set two inches to three inches wide. For more information and pictures, read this article from Illinois Wildflowers.
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
Like the red leaves of Japanese maples, their flowers are also a striking deep red. Like many maple species, the flowers emerge in large clusters. The actual petals of the flowers are at the end of longish stems. This article from the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest has more information.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Of all the maple trees discussed here, red maple flowers are the most striking and large. As the name implies, these flowers are very red. In contrast to the Japanese maple, red maple flowers cluster around the branches instead of protruding out on stalks. Usually, red maples will produce only male or only female flowers. Read this post from the Washington Post to learn more.
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
Sugar maple flowers take the form of Japanese Maple flowers but are bright green to yellow in color. This means they are on longer stalks and droop down in clusters. It is more common for sugar maple trees to have both female and male flowers on one tree. Read more about sugar maple flowers in this post from Minnesota Wildflowers.
Vine Leaf Maple (Acer circinatum)
The vine leaf maple is native to the pacific northwest coast. The flowers of this shrublike tree are quite charming in their mix of red petals and light green/yellow stigmas and stamens. Flowers emerge in clusters of about a dozen and stand out proudly against the bright green leaves. Read this article from the Oregon State University for more information.
Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)
Big Leaf maple flowers are almost all light green/yellow. They are unique because they sprout dozens of tiny flowers all along an approximately five-inch drooping stem. This produces a rounded cone shape similar to lilac flower clusters. Read more about these flowers on this edible plant blog.
Are maple tree flowers poisonous?
Usually, maple tree flowers are not toxic to humans, dogs, cats, and other pets. However, silver maple, red maple, and sugar maple flowers are reportedly poisonous to horses. If you suspect that your horse or other equine has consumed any of these maple flowers or any maple flower at all, contact a vet immediately.
Garden Tabs has a wide range of articles that help with the home and garden. These include several on maple trees. To learn more about maples, consider reading these great articles:
- What Soil Is Best For Maple Trees?
- Do Sugar Maple Trees Have Invasive Roots?
- Can Maple Tree Roots Damage Foundation?
- How Long Do Maple Trees Live? [By Type Of Maple]
- How To Get Rid Of Gall Mites [Inc. On Maple Trees And On Fuchsia].
In this article, we answered the question of whether maple trees flower every year. We go on to describe the form and function of maple flowers and more specific details for common maple flower species. To end, we answer an important question about the toxicity of maple flowers. Good luck!