There are over 150 species of maple trees, each having a different height and growth rate as well as different growth requirements. A few are considered super-speedy growers, while others are average or even slow. Some grow fast in the early years and then slow down as they mature. The growth rate depends in part on whether the particular environment is suited for the species.
In general, maples that are fast-growing tend to have weak wood, making them susceptible to winter damage. Maples that grow slower have heavier, harder wood, making them less vulnerable to branch and limb drop.
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There are over 150 different maple species, each with its own average growth rate and maximum height.
Meet the Maple Genus
The maple genus is studded with stars of the tree kingdom, including the famed sugar maple (Acer saccharum), the fast-growing silver maple (Acer saccharinum), the ubiquitous red maple (Acer rubrum), and the popular boxelder maple (Acer negundo). Thirteen trees in the maple genus are native to North America, including all four of those well-known species. Others are native to Asia, like the popular landscape plant Japanese maple (Acer japonica).
The range of annual growth rate among the maples ranges widely. Slow-growing maples include the Japanese maple, which rarely exceeds 12 inches a year. On the high side is the silver maple, which has been known to add up to 7 feet in one year. Maximum tree height also varies greatly. Some Japanese maples don't get much above 4 feet with a domed, umbrella shape. The tallest maple in North America is the bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), which can grow beyond 100 feet tall in some regions.
Tall, Fast-Growing Maples
Three of the tallest maple trees in North America are the sugar maple, the bigleaf maple, and the silver maple. Of the three, only the sugar maple is considered to possess a less-than-fast rate of growth. It grows at about 24 inches a year or less and can achieve a height of 75 feet and a spread of 50 feet at maturity. The tree needs at least four hours of direct sun to thrive.
The tallest maple tree in North America, the bigleaf maple, has a growth rate as exceptional as its maximum height. Young shoots in open-grown seedlings in moist soils may grow 3.3 to 6.6 feet in one growing season. That rate of growth, however, does not necessarily continue for its entire life. It tapers off as the tree matures.
The silver maple grows even faster than the bigleaf, sometimes adding up to 6 to 7 feet a year. It is also a tall tree, topping out at 100 feet with a 5-foot diameter. It prefers moist locations, like stream banks, floodplains, and bottomlands, but tolerates a wide range of sites, from wet to sandy and dry.