Sculpted By Nature


Botanists say that trees need the powerful March winds to flex their trunks and main branches, so the sap is drawn up to nourish the budding leaves.  Perhaps we need the gales of life in the same way, though we dislike enduring them.  ~Jane Truax



I love to gaze at trees all winter.  The intricacies of their branches, how they are painted against the sky… the look of the snow encapsulating them as if they were encased in a sort of white clay and showing off each curve, grain and bump.   Then there is the way mature bark is colored by moss and lichen.

DSCN4720When we bought our land it was a low lying open wood a bit swampy at times with undergrowth and lots of leaf litter.  When it was cleared there were about 14-15 white ash that remained along with 2 swamp maples as they were called.  Four white ash were too close to the house and not in great shape so we had the builder take them down.  Ten strong, large ash trees remained along with the 2 smaller maples.  One ash tree suddenly died a few years later more than likely due to the excavation of the land.

Many who have read this blog for a while now, know that the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is in our area.  So we beheaded the largest ash (100 ft) as it had carpenter ant damage and the top was likely to split and come crashing down.  And we took down 4 ash trees (3 to stumps and one left as a snag) last year as a way to deal with the invasion of the EAB.  Subsequently we have read that the local woodpeckers may slow the progress so we are not taking down the remaining 5 ash trees at this point.


Since I have focused on the ash trees in the past, I thought this year I would shift my focus to the largest of the 2 maples to highlight for Lucy@Loose and Leafy’s Tree Following meme that happens around the 7th of every month.  As far as I can determine, my maple is a Silver Maple.






Acer saccharinum or silver maple also goes by the names creek maple, silverleaf maple, soft maple, water maple, swamp maple, or white maple.  It is usually found in wetlands such as my property or along waterways.  My maple is in the foreground.

Silver maple is a native tree to eastern North America, and is one of the most common trees in the United States.  It is a fast growing deciduous tree reaching heights around 80-100 feet, and it can spread 10 50 ft.  Since mine has been overshadowed by the surrounding larger ash trees, it is almost 80 feet tall but not as wide may 25-30 feet.





This is the bottom of the trunk of my tree.  Often mature silver maple bark will appear gray and shaggy, but more smooth and silvery gray on younger trees.  I estimate my tree is 25-30 years old.  These trees if left in the wild can live up to 130 years.  You can see here the older bark at the bottom of my tree is more etched.  In the picture below, the younger bark which is more toward the middle and top of the tree is smoother in appearance.

Native Americans used the bark  medicinally for dysentery, hives, measles, sores and coughs.  It is said Native Americans also used the tree’s sap to make sugar.  Silver maples are not usually used today for maple syrup because the sugar content is lower than sugar maples.  But you can tap silver maples and make syrup.  I may look into this.

Early settlers used the bark for a dye, and tapped these trees and drank the sap as a spring tonic to treat liver and kidney problems and coughs.





You can see how nature has sculpted my tree.  There are crags, and lines etched in it.  And the multi-colored lichen and moss growing on it is one of the most beautiful aspects of this tree.

Native Americans also used silver maple wood for baskets and furniture.  Of course today we use silver maples for paper, cabinets, flooring, musical instruments, and many other items because the wood is light and easy to work with.  And because of its rapid growth, there is research into using silver maples as a source for biofuels.





The flower buds, that look like red berries, appear on my tree in later fall once the leaves have completely fallen off the tree.  They stay tight in the bud until the flowers appear before the leaves in early spring.  The fruit is a single seed and grows in winged pairs in spring.  The silver maple fruit is the largest fruit of any native maple.  And the fruit or seed will germinate immediately when they fall to the ground.

The silver maple is heavily used by wildlife.  The flower buds are a primary food source for squirrels, chipmunks and birds in spring.  And the bark is eaten by beaver and deer.  The trunks easily become cavities that shelter squirrels, raccoons, opossums, woodpeckers and owls.  I would love to have woodpeckers and owls make a home in my tree eventually.





Sugar maples and silver maples are very close in appearance, but can be distinguished by their leaves.  Silver maple leaves are slender with 5 lobes marked by deep angular notches.  They move gracefully in the breeze showing off their silver underside.

One of the most beautiful aspects of maple trees is their fall color.  But silver maples have less pronounced colors usually turning a pale yellow.  Although they can turn bright yellow, orange and red as mine do.  And silver maple leaves will color and drop earlier than most maples.

The silver maple is a host for some pests.  One is the parasitic cottony maple scale that I have not spotted, and the maple bladder gall mite, Vasates quadripedes, that I have seen.  But the biggest issue is the fungal disease known as tar spot.  You can see some black spots on the leaves here.  This is more of a cosmetic issue, and does not affect the health of the tree.





Silver maples were once a favorite tree to plant along streets because of its rapid growth, ease of transplanting and tolerance of conditions in cities.  But this tree has since become more of a problem tree for cities because the wood is brittle and easily damaged not to mention the roots which can invade pipes and crack sidewalks and foundations.  They also produce so many volunteers, that homeowners tend to curse not praise them.  And in many cities they are now banned as a street tree.

Maples are highly prized in New York State as the sugar maple is the state tree of NY.  But even if silver maples are not a favorite on city streets, I will cherish mine for its beauty and for all it gives to my wildlife garden.





 In the Language of Flowers, maple blossoms were thought to signify “reserve”.  


Do you have a favorite tree you are growing or want to grow?  Are you planting any new trees this year?






“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” ― William Blake





Next up on the blog: Monday I will have an update of my garden from March with a Garden Journal post.  What a cold month it has been with an amazing end.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.  

I can also be found blogging once a month at Vision and Verb.  I hope you enjoy my latest post.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.


42 Replies to “Sculpted By Nature”

  1. How lovely to have such large native trees on your land. My largest tree is a white mulberry but my favourites trees are the olives and figs!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post Sue. Tar spot is tough to get rid of here since we are in a warm humid area in summer. And I leave the leaves on the ground to protect the habitat…

  2. Such a beautiful tree! My neighbor has a large Silver Maple that the birds always perch in – like the newly arrived Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles. My neighbor on the other side has a very neglected Sugar Maple that defoliated early last year – I am anxious to see if it will leaf out this Spring. Next to that I have planted a young Red Maple (that also can be tapped!). I will sorely miss the Sugar Maple if it does not leaf out – it has a lot of dead wood that’s never been removed and has never looked vigorous which is why I planted the Red Maple in my garden in anticipation of the Sugar Maple’s decline. I love trees …

  3. A beautiful education in tree types Donna–thank you. I am currently mourning wind damage to weakened vine maples, native to our area and growing along my stream. A master gardener friend said this was a “deciding winter”. That is, nature decided what was to live and what die in this most difficult year.

  4. Here in the PNW we have a couple of native maples, the small vine maple and the bigleaf maple. Neither good for sap or fall foliage-peeping. I have several vine maples, but I miss the beautiful maple foliage from the Northeast.

  5. Very interesting to learn all about your tree Donna. We have far too many trees around our garden, probably because we love them all and can’t bear to fell any… but some will have to go due to overcrowding. One of our favourites is an old Salix caprea which has been badly damaged by the woodpeckers!

    1. I agree Cathy. I love them all and did not want any to be cut down…it sent me in to mourning losing the 4 last year, but I hope the others will recover.

  6. The EAB has finally reached our northern area and it will be interesting see how our county proceeds with it.
    In the town where I grew up was a street named Silver Maple Lane and the front and back yards had many of the maples. I loved it when all the silver undersides were visible fluttering in the wind. The area was close to a large pond so I guess the contractors left as many trees as possible when the houses were built.
    My favourite tree is the serviceberry. Three season interest and my best bird feeder in late spring.

    1. Oh so sorry to hear EAb has got to you Judith. I have a young serviceberry that I hope will grow a bit more this year. I may need to protect it more from browsing deer.

  7. I love trees. This is a great post. The photos of the trunks and bark with all the little markings is so interesting. I think how the wind buffets the trees is a perfect metaphor for people too. We get stronger through our struggles.

  8. A worthy tree for the “tree following”! I love the Maple flowers at this time of year. Ours are just starting to come out. I like the fact that Silver Maples are fast-growing (for Maples). We planted three young ones at our old house, and now when we drive back to that neighborhood we get to see how beautiful and established they are now. By the way, that first photo is frame-worthy!

    1. Oh aren’t you so sweet to say so Beth. I love taking pictures of this tree and it is so interesting and different when wet and dry.

  9. Donna, I hope I am able to comment here, I cannot always access your posts through wordpress and am not sure why, but wanted to say how much I enjoy your posts, (they come through on my emails). I am especially fond of all trees and love to watch them in the winter too.

    1. It may be the server Jules as my site is sometimes down. Glad you could comment I do so appreciate it, and glad you are enjoying the posts.

  10. The little flower buds are beautiful! It is notable that many people may consider this a weed tree, but actually it is extremely valuable to wildlife and is useful to man too. It needs to be sited appropriately so that it can reach its full potential. Thanks for an interesting and informative post!

    1. I agree Deborah that it should be sited properly. Mine was overshadowed but I hope it will have more room to grow now.

  11. I do love trees (and your tree-hugging heart:));
    I plan to plant several more evergreens this year
    in a new garden I’m sculpting
    and a few more dogwoods beneath the tall trees.
    I feel your post to the bottom of my being…..such
    a beautiful thing in the way you see:)

  12. interesting post Donna, it’s a shame you lost some of your trees but lovely you still have some and they are so tall, your maple sounds like a lovely tree, Frances

    1. The maple is a wonderful tree and the critters are also happy that we have kept some ash trees. The new trees we planted have been very slow to grow and I hope they finally show some good signs of growth this year.

      1. Donna I have found great variety in the speed that trees grow, sometimes even with the same species, I have some Downy birches that have grown well and other that have grown little, sometimes I can’t fathom why, sometimes I learn what is missing, for instance everyone says Leylandii grows fast but not here, then I learnt it needs neutral to alkaline soil so I have been liming around them and there is a noticeable difference, it’s a big learning curve and not as easy as some would have us believe, it’s good to plant trees if we have the space and that I think is the main thing, Frances

        1. Amazing how quickly I forgot this. I agree planting more trees is the main thing. Now with your help, I can help them along. Frances thank you so much for reminding me that trees are plants and have different needs and grow at different rates. I will be looking up each tree and seeing if I have them sited correctly and if their needs are being met. This is why I love blogging.

          1. Donna, this is why I tend not to bother with blogs where the writer doesn’t reply to comments, to me the comments section is the conversation part of blogging, Frances

  13. It sounds an incredible tree. Sounds as if this is a good thing if so much wildlife depends on it and uses it – even if it does create problems for some people (and pipes and foundations!).

  14. I love this time of year when the maples break bud, especially when the sun hits them late afternoon. They light up the sky in a fiery color.

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