A lot of people choose to plant types of maple trees because they work well as specimen, street, and shade trees. Maples are known for their pretty autumn coloring, and many types of maple trees will give you a show of brilliant yellows, reds, browns, and oranges each autumn. Some trees can have leaves with all of these colors at one time, and another desirable trait with these trees is the ability to tolerate drought conditions.
Maple trees include over 100 different species in the Acer genus, and they all fall into the Aceraceae family. Most types of maple trees are the woody, deciduous plants, ranging from one large upright tree with a huge trunk to multi-stemmed shrubs. No matter which type of maple tree you want, we’re going to outline 24 options below that you can consider for your yard.
Identifying Types of Maple Trees
So, how is it possible for you to visually identify any type of maple tree with the dozens of cultivars available? To answer this question, we’ll go over the characteristics the bark, leaves, flowers, and tree height offer.
The maple tree has a brownish-gray bark when they’re younger that will slowly turn to a dark brown, furrowed bark when the tree matures. There are also a few prominent grooves between the plates when you look at them. However, this isn’t true for every type of maple tree since some offer much more subtle grooves and fissures and some come with smooth bark.
It’s a fact many people aren’t aware of, but maple trees do produce flowers. Most flowers are yellow, greenish-yellow, or white during the spring months. Some types of maple trees flower later in the summer months. Some notable examples like the silver maple will bloom later in the winter months.
Maple trees are one of the most diverse genus of trees available when it comes to the varying heights of the trees. The smallest ornamental type of maple tree will only get eight feet tall at full maturity while some of the tallest cultivars reach 120 feet or more.
It is said that maple tree leaves come with a deeply lobed shape that has five pointed edges. Only the box elder and paperbark types of maple trees have compound leaves, and this means that they have more than two or three leaflets per leaf stock. Most maple trees come with fuzzy leaves, but the silver maple offers a very soft coating on the underside of the leaf.
When you break the leaves, they’ll give you a tiny amount of milky sap. However, you should note that the Sugar Maple will give you a larger amount of sap than most trees and the Norway Maple doesn’t produce any sap at all. When it comes to leaf serration, all of them have finely toothed edges, but the Red Maple has the most serrated leaves that are slightly sharp to the touch.
24 Popular Types of Maple Trees
As we mentioned, there are hundreds of types of maple trees to choose from, and some are much more familiar than others. Some are more rare but act as stunning specimen trees in your yard or garden. If you’re considering planting a type of maple tree, consider one of the 24 popular types we outlined below for you.
1. Amur Maple (Acer ginnala)
This is one of the smallest types of maple trees you can buy. When you grow it as a shrub, it has a multi-stemmed growth habit. If you grow it as a smaller tree, it’ll develop a dense and rounded crown. It also goes by the Siberian Maple name, and it’s a subspecies of the Tatarian maple. The native habitat for this type of maple tree is Japan, Siberia, Mongolia, and Korea. It tops out at just 30 feet tall at full maturity, and it has yellow and red leaf coloring during the fall months. The most popular cultivars of this tree would be Ember and Flame, and it develops a high drought tolerance once it establishes roots.
2. Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)
As you may have gotten from the name, this type of maple tree offers showy, large leaves. Also, this is one of the biggest leaves on any maple tree, and they can easily get 12-inches wide or more. You may hear this tree referred to as the Oregon or Broadleaf Maple tree. You can identify this type of maple tree by the bigger trunk with reddish-brown bark that is very furrowed. Because it offers a very large shaded space when it grows, it’s popularly planted along streets or in national parks. This tree can top out at 100 feet or more, and it loves to be in full sun. However, it can tolerate partial shade. It’s tolerant to drought conditions, and it grows best in zones five to nine.
3. Box Elder Maple (Acer Negundo)
Box Elder Maples also go by the names of the Ash Leaved Maple and the Manitoba Maple, and this type of maple tree is a very fast-growing option. It can mature and feature multiple trunks, and it can grow up to 80 feet high. This height makes the tree more useful as a shade tree than a specimen tree in your landscape. The leaves are also more like ivy than traditional maple leaves as they come with three lobes when the tree is young and slowly turn lobeless as the tree matures. They turn yellow in the fall months and feature slightly serrated edges.
4. Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’)
The Coral Bark or Sango-kaku Maple tree is a very pretty ornamental cultivar of the Japanese Maple. It is widely used as a four-season landscape shrub because it has greenish-yellow leaves during the spring, deep green leaves in the summer, golden-yellow or orange leaves in the autumn, and glowing, leafless, brownish-red stems during the winter that get more red as the winter progresses. They work wonderfully as underlayer trees for landscape designs as they top out at 20 to 25 feet, and they look very nice as contrast to evergreen trees. It loves a soil that drains very well in partial shade to full sun. You’ll get a moderate growth rate if you keep the moisture levels consistent.
5. Crimson King Norway Maple (Acer platanoides ‘Crimson King’)
Crimson King is an ornamental type of maple tree that produces deep purple, flashy foliage throughout the summer months that slowly transforms into a deep golden-yellow color during the fall months. It’s a frost and drought-tolerant hardy ornamental tree to have, and this is why it’s very commonly found in national parks, large estates, and in urban landscaping. It gets between 25 and 40 feet tall at full maturity, so you can also use it as a shade tree. You’ll get an upright growth habit with a rounded, dense crown. It grows best in zones three to seven, can tolerate different climate and soil conditions, and it thrives in full or partial sun. It can withstand long winters without any damage too.
6. Freeman Maple (Acer freemanii)
You can easily train this type of maple tree to grow as a shrub, and you can plant it in urban landscapes because it can tolerate different soil qualities, air qualities, and temperatures without any damage. You can also grow it as a bigger deciduous tree with a rounded and dense crown. In zones three to eight, it’ll top out at 30 to 60 feet tall. No matter if you choose to grow it as a tree or shrub, it offers pretty foliage during the fall months as the lobed leaves will turn from greenish-yellow to a bright orange or crimson red. This is also one of the few types of maple trees that have subtle furrows in the soft-textured bark.
7. Hedge Maple or Field Maple (Acer campestre)
This is one of the least picky types of maple trees in terms of care requirements, and this makes it a great pick for urban landscapes. It will tolerate all soil types without an issue, and it can do well in partial shade to full sun. Also, this tree grows well in polluted areas, and it’s very tolerant to drought. As the name implies, this tree is a medium-sized shrub that is popular for hedging. During the fall months, the leaves change from green to a fiery yellow color, and it’ll top out at 25 to 35 feet tall. This tree is native to southwest Asia and throughout Europe, and it grows best in zones five to eight.
8. Hornbeam Maple (Acer carpinifolium)
It may surprise you to learn that the Hornbeam Maple is actually a maple tree because it’s one that doesn’t produce the five-pointed, lobed leaf that maple trees are famous for. Instead, it offers elongated leaves that are fully lobeless. Because the tree resembles a hornbeam tree, this is where the name came from. However, the yellow-tinged leaves will turn fully yellow during the first weeks of autumn before turning a golden-brown as the season goes on. It’s a more rare type of maple tree, but it’s a pretty landscape specimen that will grow between 15 and 30 feet tall.
9. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
There are two general forms for the Japanese Maple tree, and they are cascading or upright. Both forms include various types of Japanese Maple trees, and some have solid palmatum leaves while others offer lacy dissectum leaves. The color of the foliage will range from deep maroon to bright green, purple, orange, white, pink, or red. The foliage will change color throughout the growing season, and you’ll get brightly colored younger branches with attractive mature bark that adds interest throughout the winter months.
Weeping or cascading Japanese Maple trees are very branchy, and this means that you have to make a point to prune them regularly to help them develop an attractive look. Most will stay under 10 feet tall, and it’s very common to use them as focal points or landscape accents. Upright Japanese Maple trees get between 20 and 25 feet tall, and they work as shade trees in smaller yards, or you can use them as accent trees in bigger landscape designs. It’s common to use landscape lighting to highlight this type of maple tree’s architectural features. They grow best planted in zones five to eight.
10. Laceleaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Garnet’)
This is a cultivar of the ornamental Japanese Maple family that is known for the foliage coloring. You may hear it referred to as the Garnet Maple due to the deeply dissected, showy leaves that have seven lobes and are purple, orange, and red. It keeps this color combination the entire summer before turning a deep ruby red in the fall. It’s a pretty focal point for any landscape design because it has a pendulous, very dramatic growth habit. It will get between 5 and 10 feet tall at full maturity, and you can grow them as container plants, small trees, or shrubs. It is very prone to developing issues with common maple tree diseases or pests.
11. Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)
The Norway maple is a type of maple tree that was originally brought from Europe to North America during the middle of the 18th century. It grows well in zones three to seven, and it’s not as large as some of the native maple trees. However, it’s a very fast-growing cultivar that acts like a shade tree that will top out at 40 to 60 feet high. The Crimson King we touched on earlier is a stunning cultivar in this group, and it offers deep red foliage during the summer months. However, this species has slowly become a nuisance species as it has invasive tendencies.
This type of maple tree is a very prolific seed producer. The seeds can easily spread to neighboring yards and natural areas before germinating very quickly. The seedlings also have a very fast growth habit. Before you know it, the younger seedlings will sprout and produce a very shallow but dense root system that will block necessary resources other plants need to survive. They can form invasive, exotic monocultures that can cause a lot of damage to the local ecosystem.
12. October Glory Maple (Acer rubrum ‘October Glory‘)
This is another ornamental type of maple tree, and it’s a cultivar of the red maple, and it does best planted in warmer climates. It produces red flowers during the spring months with small fruits as the flowers fade. The seeds found in these small fruits are important food sources for wildlife. This is an ornamental maple tree that can grow to be between 40 and 50 feet high at full maturity, and it offers a pretty visual display of orange, red, and yellow leaves during the fall months all on one tree. This is a slightly drought-tolerant plant that can have issues with the common diseases and pests that impact most types of maple trees sooner or later.
13. Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum)
The Paperbark Maple is a smaller type of maple tree that people commonly grow as a multi-trunked specimen tree, either in a cluster or by itself. It produces copper-colored, exfoliating bark and foliage that looks different from the leaves other maple trees have. The compound leaves have three leaflets on them. You’ll get four seasons of interest with this tree, including interesting bark that shows up nicely with the evergreen background, an attractive branch structure, and the prettiest fall foliage.
The papery bark with the ovate leaflets look slightly like birch trees, but the autumn color display and winged seeds will leave no doubts that this is a type of maple tree. During the fall, the foliage turns orange, yellow, and red. It grows well when you use it as a smaller shade tree, and you can use it in understory plantings with bigger evergreen trees. They get roughly 30 feet tall, and they’re hardy in planting zones four to eight.
14. Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
This is a very popular native type of maple tree. It gets the name from the smaller red flowers it produces during the late winter months when the branches are bare. Some red maple types will also have a deep red coloring on the fall foliage, but others can turn orange, yellow, maroon, or even scarlet. This tree is very adaptable to different growing conditions, and this makes it one of the more common landscape trees available. They grow at a very moderate rate, and they’ll get between 40 and 60 feet tall. They are hardy in zones three to nine, and it makes a great shade tree with a full oval crown.
15. Rocky Mountain Maple (Acer glabrum)
As you may have guessed, this type of maple tree is a western species that grows in the United States and up into Canada. It’s not a large tree as it will usually top out at 30 feet high, and a lot isn’t known about this tree because it has such a remote growth habit. However, this is a very important wildlife species to keep around. Like many plants in the area, this tree requires fire as part of the ecology to keep it healthy and growing.
16. Shirasawa’s Maple or Fullmoon maple (Acer shirasawanum)
Also called the Full Moon Maple, this is actually a shrub that is native to parts of Japan. It has ties to the Amur Maple because it has a very high ornamental value to it. This tree gets between 20 and 30 feet tall, and the most notable characteristic this tree has is the 9 to 13 lobed leaves with a rounded shape and serrated edges. The leaves give a pretty visual display in the autumn months as they go from a greenish-yellow color to golden orange that will eventually deepen to a stunning red as fall goes on.
17. Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
The Silver Maple has a very strong resemblance to the willow tree, and this means you’ll get a very dramatic, beautiful specimen tree if you plant it. This tree loves moisture, so it’s common to plant it alongside ponds or creeks or river banks to keep it happy. It offers the signature five-pointed leaf, and it is silvery green most of the year. During the fall, the color switches to a fiery red. This type of maple tree thrives in zones three to nine, and it’ll top out at 70 feet. However, it does have invasive, shallow roots and it’s very prone to issues with diseases and pests, so this makes it not the go-to choice for many landscapers.
18. Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum)
The Striped Maple is very popular along the East Coast, right up into Canada. While it’s not the tallest type of maple tree on the list as it gets only 15 feet tall, it is very popular in the commercial use sector for wood making. Wildlife will also benefit from this tree, and it has a very popular nickname of Moose Maple. It also has reputed medicinal properties attached to it.
19. Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
The Sugar Maple is a native tree that dominates the northern forests right alongside hemlock, white pine, and beech trees. In landscape designs, this type of maple tree has long been appreciated for the pretty fall colors and deep shade it provides. This is a larger shade tree that will get between 65 and 75 feet tall, and it has a rounded canopy. It’s very adaptable to various climates and soil types, and it’s a favorite cultivar among all of the native types of maple trees throughout Michigan. The tree’s range is in the heart of eastern North America, so it makes sense that it grows best in zones three to eight.
In southern climates where the weather is warmer, other sugar maple trees grow better. Both the Chalk Bark Maple and the Southern Sugar Maple have similar characteristics to the common Sugar Maple, but they’re smaller. Both max out at roughly 25 feet tall, and they have smaller leaves than the northern cultivar. The southern tree’s leaves usually turn a very bright yellow, and the chalk bark tree turns a pretty orangish-yellow or crimson. They grow well in zones five to nine and five to eight, respectively.
20. Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)
This type of maple tree got the name because the leaves resemble the sycamore tree more than the maple. Like with the hedge maple tree, this one is a great fit for more urban environments because it can tolerate poor soil quality, heavier pollution, and drought without any damage. In terms of how it looks, this type of maple tree is massive and can get between 40 and 100 feet. It has a rounded crown that is more dense with leaves with subtle lobes that will turn a bronze color during the fall months. It’s very popular as a shade tree.
21. Tatarian Maple (Acer tataricum)
This type of maple tree is the mother species of the Amur maple tree. If you choose not to prune it, it will grow into a multi-stemmed shrub. If you do prune it, you can train it to grow as a smaller upright tree. When it’s young, the leaves have three lobes before becoming completely lobeless as it matures. During the spring months, this tree blooms white flowers that are 100% odorless, and these flowers give way to red fruit. The leaves turn a bright red to a fiery yellow in the fall, and it gets between 10 and 20 feet high when you plant it in zones three to eight.
22. Three Flowered Maple (Acer triflorum)
This is another pretty ornamental type of maple tree that has flaking, ash brown bark that will peel away to reveal layers of vertical stripes with brownish-copper wood. The trifoliate leaves have a bluish-silver look for most of the year, but this fades to a bright orange, red, and yellow coloring during the autumn months. The leaves will shed during the winter, and it gets the name because the greenish-yellow flowers form clusters of three during the spring months. It’s a low-maintenance option that is easy to grow, and it can have issues with common diseases or pests. It’s a pretty specimen tree for landscapers as it tops out at 20 to 30 feet high.
23. Trident Maple (Acer buergerianum)
The Trident Maple is a type of maple tree that was introduced to the United States, and it’s now widespread both here and abroad. However, the native range for this tree is in China to Japan, and it’s treated like a bonsai plant here. Like several species in this genus, this one has a very important place in Chinese medicine.
24. Vine Leaf Maple (Acer cissifolium)
The final type of maple tree on the list gets the name due to the trifoliate leaves that have three parts. It doesn’t offer the traditional maple leaf look. As a matter of fact, the leaves look like something you’d find on ivies or ash trees. This is where it gets the name. If you look at it, you’ll notice that it resembles the Japanese maple, and it has a long history of use for ornamental purposes. It gets between 15 and 30 feet tall, and the leaves give you a pretty red and yellow shade in the fall. It does best in partial shade, and this tree is native to Japan.
We’ve outlined 24 pretty types of maple trees that you can consider adding to your yard or garden this year. Some of them are much too big for traditional yards, but we highlighted a good deal of ornamental varieties that would do well. Take a look, pick out the perfect type of maple tree, and enjoy the look it gives your landscape.