Fall Sugar Maples

Exploring Ash Tree Alternatives – Maples

As emerald ash borer decimates ash trees in our neighborhoods, many folks are reflecting on what should be planted to replace them. This short series explores some of our favorite trees for ash tree replacement. In our last post, we sung the praises of oaks, and now it’s time to exalt the magnificent maples!

Firefall Maple (Acer x freemanii ‘AF #1’)

A University of Minnesota release, this glorious maple has deeply cut foliage that turns bright crimson red in fall. Its handsome upright oval shape and manageable size (50’ tall and 35’ wide) make this a superb landscape tree. It also boasts a quick growth rate but not at the expense of good structure and form. Firefall is extremely cold hardy, down to zone 3b, so you can plant this beauty with confidence. This seedless variety also minimizes cleanup and would be a good choice near patios and decks.

Matador Maple (Acer x freemanii ‘Bailston’)

Deep red fall color with orange undertones decorates this fantastic tree a bit later than other maples and the leaves hang on a little bit longer. It also boasts a nice upright shape and symmetrical form. Matador is a great size for the home landscape at about 45’ tall and 35’ wide and makes an awesome choice for fall interest in a fast growing tree. Adaptable to many soil types and tolerant of damp soils.

Sienna Glenn Maple (Acer x freemanii ‘Sienna’)

Another lovely hybrid maple with fantastic apricot fall color. Dense branching and strong wood compliment the fast growth rate. It maintains a nice pyramidal form and is a truly handsome tree. Grows to about 50’ tall and 40’ wide and tolerates various soil types. Minimal seeds help keep things a bit tidier.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Who doesn’t love a sugar maple? There is something emotionally satisfying about them, something akin to fond memories of childhood. These majestic native trees grace us with shade, beautiful fall color in burnt orange, red, and yellow, and the quintessential maple leaf shape. And there’s the little matter of delicious maple syrup!

Sugar maples grow a little more slowly than the hybrid maples above, but they’re by no means total snails and the wait is well worth it. Their beautiful rounded shape is truly elegant, making them a fantastic large tree (think 70 – 80’ tall) for your yard. Plant in good rich soil with excellent drainage for best results. Avoid wet, compacted, or clay soils. We’ve got the straight species and some nice cultivars available.

Note about diversity in the landscape:

We mentioned it in the last post, but it bears repeating: If you’re struggling with the decision of what to plant to replace your ash tree(s), remember that you don’t have to pick just one kind of tree. In fact, if you’re replacing more than one ash, choosing a variety of trees from different families is the best call. Diversity in the landscape is one of the best ways to guard against pest and disease events like EAB infestation and now is your chance to protect the future of your new trees!