Trees of the Adirondack Park: Striped Maple on the Barnum Brook Trail at the Paul Smiths VIC (26 September 2012)

Trees of the Adirondacks:
Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum)

Trees of the Adirondacks: The leaves of the Striped Maple generally have three lobes. Striped Maple on the Barnum Brook Trail (21 July 2012) Trees of the Adirondacks: The leaves of the Striped Maple generally have three lobes. Striped Maple on the Barnum Brook Trail (21 July 2012)

The Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum) is a small, deciduous understory tree or large shrub which flourishes in cool, moist woods in the Adirondack Mountains. Striped Maples are also known as Goosefoot or Goosefoot Maple – a reference to the fact that the leaf is shaped roughly like the foot of a goose. Striped Maple are also known as Moosewood – a reference to the fact that the bark is consumed by moose in winter. The plant is also referred to as Pennsylvania Maple (a reference to the state of Pennsylvania, where the tree is a native species) and Snakebark Maple (a reference to its distinctive striped bark). Striped Maple trees grow up to about 30 feet high.

Trees of the Adirondacks: Striped Maple leaves turn yellow in the fall.  Striped Maple at the Paul Smiths VIC (26 September 2012)
Striped Maple leaves are finely toothed, in contrast to the coarsely toothed leaves of the Mountain Maple. Striped Maple leaves turn yellow in the fall.

Identification of the Striped Maple: Like other maples, Striped Maples have opposite, lobed leaves. The leaves of the Striped Maple are large, thin, and somewhat papery. They usually have three triangular, forward-pointing lobes, with a large central lobe. The margins of the leaves are finely toothed. The base of the leaf is rounded or slightly heart-shaped. Striped Maple leaves are a deep yellow-green and smooth above, turning yellow in autumn. The bark is green with thin stripes, becoming gray as the tree ages. The twigs are green and hairless, becoming striped with whitish lines.

Keys to identifying the Striped Maple and differentiating it from other maples include its leaves, bark, and growth habit.

Trees of the Adirondacks: Sugar Maple bark.  Sugar Maple on the Barnum Brook Trail at the Paul Smiths VIC (28 July 2012) 
The bark of the larger stems on a young Striped Maple tree is greenish with distinctive white stripes. Striped Maple on the Barnum Brook Trail (28 July 2012).

The Striped Maple flowers in late spring or early summer, following leaf development. The flowers are small and greenish yellow, arranged in loose drooping clusters. The fruits are somewhat reddish in early development, changing later to tan. The fruits have widely spaced wings and are about 3/4 inch long, maturing in late summer and early fall.

Uses of the Striped Maple: The Striped Maple has limited uses. Its porous and fine grained wood has occasionally been used by cabinet makers for inlay material. Native American tribes reportedly used the wood to make arrows and the bark to make a beverage. Farmers in the American colonies and Canada reportedly fed their cattle both dried and green leaves in the winter; in the spring, when the buds had begun to swell, they turned their horses and cows into the woods to browse on the young shoots. Native American tribes used the the Striped Maple to treat a variety of ailments including bronchial and kidney troubles, colds, and coughs.

Wildlife Value of the Striped Maple: The Striped Maple is probably most important as a browse plant for wildlife. Its twigs are browsed by snowshoe hare; red squirrels and chipmunks eat the seeds. Striped Maple is frequently eaten by porcupinesThe Striped Maple also provides browse for white-tailed deer and moose, though the net energy derived from winter browse is relatively lowRuffed grouse consume the vegetative buds. Striped maple are also very useful to wildlife in that these small understory trees help diversify the vertical profile of a forest, creating the dense layers in a woodland that are attractive to many wildlife species for nesting, feeding, and perching.

Trees of the Adirondacks: Striped Maple on the Barnum Brook Trail at the VIC (28 July 2012)
The bark of a mature Striped Maple (seen here on the Barnum Brook Trail at the VIC) becomes brownish gray with vertical stripes.

Distribution of the Striped Maple: This tree is widely distributed over the northeastern quarter of the United States and southeastern Canada, including most of the counties of New York State. The natural range of the Striped Maple extends from Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario, Michigan, and eastern Minnesota. The Striped Maple grows south to northeastern Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It also grows in the mountains to northern Georgia.

Striped Maple is an indicator species for the Northern Hardwood Forest. These trees are also common in mixed hardwood-conifer forests. The canopy in the Northern Hardwood Forest is dominated by Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, Eastern Hemlock, American Beech, and Eastern White Pine, while Striped Maple trees, together with Hobblebush, are common in the understory layer. Herbaceous species which thrive here include Painted Trillium, Goldthread, Common Wood Sorrel, Carolina Spring Beauty, Pink Lady's Slipper, and Wild Sarsaparilla. Birds commonly seen and heard in the Northern Hardwood Forest and mixed hardwood-conifer forest include the White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Purple Finch, Mourning Warbler, American Redstart, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Cedar Waxwing.

Striped Maples at the Paul Smiths VIC: In contrast to Black Spruce and Tamarack, the Striped Maple does not grow in the VIC's wetland areas, such as Heron Marsh and Barnum Bog. Moreover, in contrast to the Red Maple, the Striped Maple is not tolerant of wetter soil and so are not found along the marsh or boggy edges. Look for Striped Maple in our drier and better-drained upland soils. This species may be seen along the southwest side of the Heron Marsh Trail between the floating bridge and the long boardwalk. The most convenient place to observe Striped Maple trees is on the Barnum Brook Trail. The Striped Maple is one of the eleven tree species marked with signage along this trail, providing a convenient way to learn to differentiate this species from Red Maples and Sugar Maples, which are also identified on the trail.


Trees of the Adirondack Mountains

Explore the VIC

The Paul Smiths VIC offers a wide variety of programs throughout the year to educate and inform Adirondack Park residents and visitors about the natural wonders of the Adirondack Mountains. You can help support these programs by joining the Friends of the VIC. More information on Friends of the VIC memberships

Explore the Trails

The VIC trails are free and open to the public, from dawn to dusk, spring through fall. In winter, the trails are open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers for a fee. Day or season passes may be purchased.