The silver maple and red maple are hardy, deciduous trees that grow in a wide range of soil types in the Eastern U.S. and Southeast Canada. They can be distinguished by differences in their size, leaves, fruits, bark and fall color.
According to Maple-Trees.com, the silver maple is larger, growing to heights of 50 to 70 feet and widths of 40 to 60 feet. The red maple will reach heights of 40 to 60 feet and widths of 25 to 45 feet.
The silver maple's leaves are wider than the red maple's (5 to 7 inches versus 2 to 6 inches) and have five lobes instead of three. The undersides of the silver maple's new leaves are silver-white in color, while the red maple's new leaves have a whitish undertone.
Both trees produce V-shaped fruits, but the silver maple's are twice as long, reaching lengths of 2 inches, according to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association. Red maple fruits are red, while silver maple fruits are green or brown.
Young red maples have light gray bark while young silver maples have silvery gray bark. The MMPA says the bark of older silver maples takes on a "shaggy" appearance.
AboutMapleTrees.com describes the fall color of the silver maple leaves as yellow-gold and the leaves of red maple as a "spectacular crimson orange."