Much like the different varieties of Oak (Quercus) trees, certain maples (Acer) are known to create hybrids and become difficult to differentiate. An easy example of this is the Black Maple (Acer nigrum) which can be confused with the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). Some people even consider the Black Maple as a subspecies of the Sugar Maple, which can cause confusion when identifying them. As the identification process continues at UMBC, I noticed that there was a rather large collection of what was previously thought to be Sugar Maples in two plots in the Herbert Run section on campus. After a second look, these trees were identified as Black Maples. These two plots were almost entirely Black Maple (approximately 179 out of 232 total trees; 77.1% of the trees). Some of the characteristics of the Black Maple that may help in differentiating it from a Sugar Maple include: the number of lobes on a leaf (3 lobes for Black and 5 for Sugar), the attributes of the bark (Black often have slightly darker bark with deeper grooves), size of the fruit (Black have larger seeds), and attributes of the terminal buds (Black are conical and often hairy while Sugar are very sharp with tight scales). Hopefully these slight differences will improve the tree identification process in other parts of the campus where Black and Sugar Maples can be found. Here on the UMBC campus, we have multiple varieties of Maple, including but not limited to: Black Maple, Sugar Maple, Boxelder (Acer negundo), Siebold's Maple (Acer sieboldianum), and Norway Maple (Acer platanoids). Learning ways to differentiate between them will help us to get a more complete picture of the tree species distribution.
The photographs above are of a Sugar Maple and were retrieved from Virginia Tech's Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at the following site: http://tinyurl.com/o53vmwf
The photographs above are of a Black Maple and were retrieved from "Tap My Trees" at the following site:
The photograph of the Black Maple at the top of the post is from Google Images and was retrieved from: