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Intro to Trees of Indiana: Black Maple

The classic and trusted book "Fifty Common Trees of Indiana" by T.E. Shaw was published in 1956 as a user-friendly guide to local species.  Nearly 70 years later, the publication has been updated through a joint effort by the Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Indiana 4-H, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and reintroduced as "An Introduction to Trees of Indiana."

A printed copy of the full publication is available for purchase for $7 in the Purdue Extension Education Store. The field guide helps identify common Indiana woodlot trees. 

Each week, the Intro to Trees of Indiana web series will offer a sneak peek at one species from the book, paired with an ID That Tree video from Purdue Extension forester Lenny Farlee to help visualize each species as it stands in the woods. Threats to species health as well as also insight into the wood provided by the species, will be provided through additional resources as well as the Hardwoods of the Central Midwest exhibit of the Purdue Arboretum, if available. Line drawing of a black maple leaf

This week, we introduce the black maple or Acer nigrum.

Black maple is easily confused with its cousin, the sugar maple, but there are a few key identifying characteristics to tell them apart. Black maple commonly has stipules, or miniature leaves, at the base of the leaf stem. This species features mottled gray stems and black pointed buds oppositely arranged on the stems. The lobed leaves are darker green and tend to droop down at the edges as the summer goes on.  

The bark is lighter gray and smooth in young trees and features flakes or plates in older trees.

The seed or fruit of black maple is a winged seed which occurs in pairs and turns from green to brown when mature, similar to sugar maple.

Black maples, frequently found on moist or bottomland sites, grow 60 to 75 feet tall and can be 40 to 50 feet wide, providing excellent shade with their full foliage.

The Morton Arboretum warns again pruning maps in the spring as they are ‘bleeders’ and will lose large amounts of sap. This species also is susceptible to leaf scorch, verticillium wilt, tar spot and anthracnose and can be affected by borers and cottony maple scale. Black maple suffers from salt, drought and air pollution.

According to the Wood Database, black maples naturally occur in the northeastern United States. 

Black maple is slightly more dense and slightly more expensive than soft maple, but slightly softer and lighter than sugar maple. It turns, glues and finishes well, but may burn when machined with high-speed cutters like a router.

Because of its hardness and uniform grain characteristics it is also commonly used for flooring, from basketball courts and dance floors to bowling alleys and residential. It can also be used for veneer, paper, musical instruments, cutting boards, butcher blocks, workbenches, baseball bats and other turned objects and specialty wood items.

Other Resources:
Morton Arboretum: Black Maple
Fifty Trees of the Midwest app for the iPhone, The Education Store
Native Trees of the Midwest, The Education Store
Shrubs and Woody Vines of Indiana and the Midwest, The Education Store
Investing in Indiana Woodlands, The Education Store
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store
ID That Tree, Purdue Extension-Forestry & Natural Resources (FNR) YouTube playlist
Woodland Management Moment , Purdue Extension-FNR YouTube playlist

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