Herb: Silver Maple

Latin name: Acer saccharinum

Synonyms: Acer dasycarpum, Acer eriocarpum

Family: Aceraceae (Maple Family)

Medicinal use of Silver Maple:

An infusion of the bark is used in the treatment of coughs, cramps and dysentery. The infusion is also applied externally to old, stubborn running sores. A compound infusion is used in the treatment of "female complaints". The inner bark is boiled and used with water as a wash for sore eyes. An infusion is used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea. An infusion of the root bark has been used in the treatment of gonorrhoea.

Description of the plant:


30 m
(98 feet)

to March

Habitat of the herb:

Banks of rivers, usually in sandy soils. Trees are occasionally found in deep often submerged swamps.

Edible parts of Silver Maple:

The sap contains sugar and can be used as a drink or be concentrated into a syrup by boiling off the water. The syrup is used as a sweetener on many foods. The yield is only half that of A. saccharum. It is said to be sweeter and whiter than A. saccharum. The sap can be harvested in the late winter, the flow is best on warm sunny days following a frost. The best sap production comes from cold-winter areas with continental climates. Self-sown seedlings, gathered in early spring, are eaten fresh or dried for later use. Seeds - cooked. The wings are removed and the seeds boiled then eaten hot. Good crops are produced nearly every year in the wild. The seed is about 12mm long and is produced in small clusters. Inner bark - cooked. It is dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves are packed around apples, rootcrops etc to help preserve them. A fairly wind-tolerant tree, it can be used in shelterbelt plantings. The branches are rather brittle, however, and can break off even in minor storms. The stems are used in making baskets. The boiled inner bark yields a brown dye. Mixed with lead sulphate this produces a blue/black dye which can also be used as an ink. A black dye is obtained from the twigs and bark. The bark can be boiled, along with hemlock (Tsuga spp) and swamp oak bark (Quercus bicolor) to make a wash to remove rust from iron and steel, and to prevent further rusting. Wood - rather brittle, close-grained, hard, strong, easily worked but not durable. It weighs 32lb per cubic metre. It has many uses such as veneer, cooperage, furniture, flooring and pulp.

Propagation of Silver Maple:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the spring in a cold frame. It usually germinates immediately and by the end of summer has formed a small tree with several pairs of leaves. Stored seed quickly loses its viability. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours and then stratify for 2 - 4 months at 1 - 8C. It can be slow to germinate. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on until they are 20cm or more tall before planting them out in their permanent positions. Layering, which takes about 12 months, is successful with most species in this genus. Cuttings of young shoots in June or July. The cuttings should have 2 - 3 pairs of leaves, plus one pair of buds at the base. Remove a very thin slice of bark at the base of the cutting, rooting is improved if a rooting hormone is used. The rooted cuttings must show new growth during the summer before being potted up otherwise they are unlikely to survive the winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Banks of rivers, usually in sandy soils. Trees are occasionally found in deep often submerged swamps.

Known hazards of Acer saccharinum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.