Striped Maple

While hiking at Allegany State Park over the weekend, a gorgeous color kept drawing my eye.  I’m used to seeing browns in the winter woods, but usually it is beech leaves, stubbornly clinging sometimes till spring.  This color was richer, though… deeper… and with a more golden tinge.

Striped Maple Samaras
This photo does not do justice to the color I saw…

Samara.  I like that word.  According to, samara is defined as follows:

sam·a·ra (smr-, s-mâr, -mär)

n. A dry, indehiscent, winged, often one-seeded fruit, as of the ash, elm, or maple. Also called key fruit.

And, because inquiring minds like to know, indehiscent means:

in·de·his·cent (nd-hsnt)

adj. Botany
Not splitting open at maturity: indehiscent fruit
These were definitely samaras – very maple-like.  When I got closer to see exactly whose seeds they were, a quick glance at the bark told me:  Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum).  The bark is smooth with green and white stripes, giving the tree its name.

Striped Maple Bark

Striped Maple Range MapStriped Maple is an understory tree that doesn’t usually get very big – maybe only 40 feet or so.  It likes moist, upland soil.  I don’t think we have any here at Audubon, but there are plenty of them in the Park.

It’s mostly an eastern tree, as you can see from the USDA Plant Database map.  Another map I saw somewhere once and now can’t find shows it mostly in the upper elevations of the states that are green on this map.

Here’s what it would have looked like last spring (thanks to Monarch!)
Striped Maple in bloom by Tom LeBlanc

From that leaf shape, you can see why some people call it Goose Maple – the leaves looking like gigantic goose footprints.  Some call it Moosewood, presumably because in areas that have moose it is a favorite food?  (And speaking of food, there is a restaurant in Ithaca, NY with that name that serves the most delicious foods!  I try to eat there every time I’m in Ithaca and have several of their cookbooks… but I digress…)

My favorite name for this tree hints at a very interesting use for the soft leaves:  Charmin of the Woods.  I’ve never put it to that use myself.  Have you?

11 thoughts on “Striped Maple

  1. Hi Jennifer- Striped maple only barely gets into Ohio- in the extreme most county for Ohio. It is actually considered a state endangered species. I enjoy going up there to that part of the state to see it. It is really quite an interesting tree. One of my friends did research on this on an undergrad and I’ll never forget her presentation where she said individual trees are known to change their sex during their lifetimes!


  2. I have only seen Striped Maple in the higher elevations–above 3000 feet–around here. On our land, I have looked for it but only find red and sugar maple.

  3. I usually don’t have the patience to identify plants and trees when I’m birding.-I am happy when someone comes along to identify things for me.-One of these days I’ll work to improve in that area.-Nice photos!

  4. Jennifer, Can humans safely eat maple samaras (and if so, how- boiled, or roasted)? Some people are saying they’re doing this (on-line posts), but their experiments have been relatively short term. I’d love it if they really were safe, since I’ve got a lot of maples nearby. I’d like to entertain the posibility of using them as ‘tree soybeans’.

  5. Hmm… I have never heard that they are edible by humans… Curious notion… Part of me says, “Why not? Should be good protein.” The other part wonders, “If they are, why aren’t they listed in Peterson’s guide?”

  6. Yes. It takes a day to leach the tannins for ‘acorn mash’– maybe samarras take even more work!= not ‘practical trail food’! In any case, I’m not doing anything without a lot more info.

  7. Ever had puff-ball mushrooms? (Eastern Natives call it ‘tuckhoe’.) In SW Ohio; we’d pick them in mid-Fall, wash ’em, then slice into 1/2″ ‘steaks’, saute in butter, then remove the outer cuticle: tasty!

  8. Pingback: South Mountain – Annapolis Valley « hikes i like

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