Red Maple / Silver Maple What's the Difference?

Late last summer I purchased a small 7-foot tall maple tree that was tagged as a red maple. When winter came what little leaves it had on it (the leaves got thrashed around at the nusery) simply fell off. No color change. This spring new leaves budded out, but they were just green. There was no red tipped branches or red buds. Right now the leaves are plain green on top, but the underside of the leaf isn't silvery like I think a silver maple leaf should look like.
So here are my questions. How or when can I tell if this small maple is a red maple? Do I just wait until this fall to see if the leaves turn red?
Patrick
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7 feet tall is not a small tree to purchase. Call the nursery now.
Dick
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote in

Red Maple is the common name for Acer rubrum, aka Scarlet Maple and Swamp Maple. Emerging leaves are reddish tinged gradually changing medium to dark green above with a distinct gray cast beneath. Red Maples get their name from the brilliant red color they (usually) turn in the fall, although stress and a variety of other factors can affect the show. Also, Red Maples in the nursery trade are genetically selected for their fall color; seedling trees which lesser-quality nurseries or plantsmen might sell as a Red Maple may have really poor fall color; not that there is anything wrong with buying seedling trees, it's just good to be forewarned that there is extreme genetic variability in this species. In the trade, 'Autumn Blaze', 'Autumn Flame', 'Fairview Flame', and 'October Glory' all seem to be reliable performers in the fall. So, a 'Red Maple' does not have year round red leaves. In terms of comparison of leaf shape, Silver Maple (Acer Sacharinum) is very different than Red Maple.
Red Maple: 2" to 4"(sometimes 5") long and wide, 3 although often 5-lobed, triangular ovate lobes and sinuses are irregularly toothed (in Silver Maple the sinuses are entire), medium to dark green above, grayish to silvery beneaths with hairy veins, new growth and petioles often red. The petiole is 2 to 4" long.
Silver Maple: 3" to 6" across, 5-lobed, with deeply and doubly acuminate lobes, the middle often 3-lobed, bright to medium green above, silvery white beneath and pubescent when young; petiole is 3" to 5" long. (My thanks to Dirr for those descriptions).
--
David J. Bockman, Fairfax, VA (USDA Hardiness Zone 7)
email: snipped-for-privacy@beyondgardening.com
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You can tell the difference by the color of the underside of the leaves. If they are not silvery, then it is a red maple. You can also tell by the depth of the sinuses on the leaves- silver maple usually has much deeper sinuses than red maple. There are also several hybrids between the 2 trees (acer x freemanii) that have intermediate characteristics of both parents. The culitvars mentioned by david are actually the A. x freemanii species and not A. rubrum. Post a picture of the buds.
Toad
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'Autumn Blaze'-- A. X FREEMANII 'Autumn Flame'-- A. RUBRUM 'Fairview Flame'-- A. RUBRUM 'October Glory'-- A. RUBRUM.
--
David J. Bockman, Fairfax, VA (USDA Hardiness Zone 7)
email: snipped-for-privacy@beyondgardening.com
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David Bockman wrote:

Many growers offer Red Maples that are actually part silver, for faster growth (faster growth = faster to market = more profit). These can be called "red" or something else. "Autumn Blaze" is a patented version of this hybrid. There's nothing wrong with that if the seller is honest about what they are doing. Some gardeners snub the silver maples, but silvers actually make pretty decent instant, non-permanent trees. I planted several silver and part-silver maples this year amongst some oaks. In ten or twenty years I'll thin out the maples and leave the oaks. If you live in an area with hurricaines or icy winters though, stay away from the silvers - they're too weak for those climates.
The leaf on the Canadian flag is a red maple. If your maple has leaves with much deeper indentations then it is probably at least part silver, although maple leaf shapes do vary in nature from one population to another. Reds can have leaves that are grey or silver underneath like silvers.
Make sure you don't have a Norway maple. These trees interbreed with local species and ruin them. Norways are currently a major problem in the sugar maple forests of Vermont.
Recently I noticed at a local Kmart about thirty mis-labelled trees. The pots said everything from sycamore to buckey, but every one was some sort of maple. These stores don't always buy from the most reliable sources. I bought a tulip poplar from another Kmart this year that turned out to be a European sycamore. Guess I got what I paid for....
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