Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Acer spicatum
SPECIES: Acer spicatum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Sullivan, Janet. 1993. Acer spicatum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The accepted scientific name for mountain maple is Acer spicatum Lam.
There are no named subspecies, varieties, or forms [17,39].
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Acer spicatum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Mountain maple is found throughout southeastern Canada and the
northeastern United States, from Newfoundland to Saskatchewan south to
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, northeastern Iowa, and in the
mountains to western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee [17,20].
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
CT IA ME MA MI MN NH NJ NY NC
OH PA RI TN VT VA WV WI MB NB
NF NS ON PE PQ SK
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
K094 Conifer bog
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
1 Jack pine
5 Balsam fir
15 Red pine
17 Pin cherry
18 Paper birch
20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine - hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
30 Red spruce - yellow birch
31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech
32 Red spruce
33 Red spruce - balsam fir
34 Red spruce - Fraser fir
37 Northern white-cedar
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
60 Beech - sugar maple
108 Red maple
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Mountain maple is an understory or subcanopy component in a number of
northeastern forest associations. It is usually scattered in climax
types, such as spruce-fir or sugar maple; it attains shrub-layer
dominance in mid-seral types and occasionally will form a dense,
continuous shrub layer in disturbed forests.
The most common understory associates of mountain maple include
hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium), striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum),
pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), American mountain-ash (Sorbus
americana), beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta), speckled alder (Alnus
rugosa), green alder (A. crispa), red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea),
and red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) . Ground layer associates vary
with cover type. Typical associates include bunchberry (Cornus
canadensis), Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), Aster acuminatus,
mountain woodsorrel (Oxalis montana), wild sarsaparilla (Aralia
nudicaulis), and yellow beadlily (Clintonia borealis) [11,22,26,44].
Mountain maple is named as an subcanopy dominant or indicator
species in the following publications:
Some forest types of central Newfoundland and their relation to
environmental factors 
The principal plant associations of the Saint Lawrence Valley 
A forest classification for the Maritime Provinces 
Some aspects of the aspen-birch-spruce-fir type in Ontario 
Wilderness ecology: virgin plant communities of the Boundary Waters
Canoe Area 
Classification and gradient analysis of forest vegetation of Cape
Enrage, Bic Park, Quebec 
SPECIES: Acer spicatum
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
Mountain maple wood is moderately light, soft, and low in strength. It
is of no economic importance .
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Mountain maple is browsed by moose, white-tailed deer, cottontails,
snowshoe hares, and woodland caribou. The bark is consumed by moose,
white-tailed deer, and beavers. Ruffed grouse consume the vegetative
On Isle Royale, Michigan, mountain maple is the second most important
summer browse for moose, and continues to be important through the fall
and winter . In the eastern part of its range, mountain maple is an
important winter browse for moose, but usually not the most important
. It is a staple winter food for white-tailed deer in the Lake
Mountain maple is more palatable to moose than sugar maple (Acer
saccharum) is but not as palatable as red maple (A. rubrum) . In
Ontario, moose will consume mountain maple in greater proportion than
its availability . Mountain maple is ranked high in palatability for
white-tailed deer in New Brunswick . Snowshoe hares prefer mountain
maple for winter browse .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Mountain maple is one of the most nutritious browse species for
white-tailed deer .
Nutritional values for mountain maple leaves (average for growing
season) are as follows :
Percent of dry weight
Phosphorus Potassium Calcium Magnesium Ash Protein Crude fiber
0.50 1.56 1.27 0.05 7.6 12.6 12.5
Milligrams per kilogram
Iron Copper Zinc Manganese Energy (cal/gm)
282 11.8 49 560 4,452
Nutritional values for mountain maple twigs, averaged from August to
April, were as follows (reported as percent of dry weight) :
ash protein crude fiber energy (cal/gm)
3.5 6.2 36.8 4,662
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Mountain maple is sometimes planted as an ornamental .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Browse: Mountain maple can withstand repeated and heavy browsing, and
produces the greatest amount of new growth when about 80 percent of the
annual twig growth is removed each year. When it is not heavily
browsed, mountain maple usually grows out of the reach of white-tailed
deer in about 3 years [2,28,32]. It is commonly the dominant brushy
vegetation in overpopulated deer yarding areas, and continues to produce
well after 20 or more years of heavy usage .
Cutting the stems of mountain maple near ground level during the growing
season is the most effective treatment to increase the amount of browse.
The next most effective treatment is a breast-height spray of 2,4-D in
the spring [28,31]. In New Hampshire, clearcuts increase the
availability and nutritive quality of mountain maple browse .
Competition: Where spruce (Picea spp.) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea)
are logged from mixed-wood slopes, mountain maple often grows
opportunistically, forming a thick shrub layer and suppressing conifer
seedling growth. Dying mountain maples actually produce more stems than
healthy individuals [25,58]. After tree harvest in
aspen-birch-spruce-fir types in Ontario, mountain maple and gray alder
(Alnus rugosa var. americana) form closed shrub canopies. Both
vegetative and seed reproduction occurs; cutover areas have
characteristic large, vegetatively produced clumps of mountain maple and
small, single stems that originated from seed . Mountain maple
suppressed hardwood reproduction for 10 to 15 years after overstory
removal in Nova Scotia . After logging in a red pine-white pine
forest in northeastern Minnesota, a mountain maple layer developed
underneath the conifer regeneration, and suppressed subsequent conifer
establishment. Mountain maple was more dense in areas with low stocking
levels of regenerating red or white pine than in areas that were
adequately stocked .
Control: Reduction of mountain maple is sometimes necessary to promote
tree regeneration. A bulldozer can be used to eradicate mountain maple,
but care needs to be taken to uproot stems; merely crushing the crowns
will stimulate growth . Burning can be used to suppress mountain
maple. Piling slash on maple thickets will ensure a fire hot enough to
kill the roots .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Acer spicatum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Mountain maple is a native, deciduous tall shrub or small tree . In
the Appalachian Mountains, the maximum height of mountain maple is 33
feet (10 m), but it is usually smaller. In the northern parts of its
range, maximum height is 20 feet (6 m). Maximum d.b.h. is 6 to 8 inches
(15-20 cm) in the Appalachian Mountains and rarely over 3 to 4 inches
(8-10 cm) in the north. This tree has a short, often crooked trunk,
with a shrubby or clumped growth form [17,28]. The bark of mountain
maple is drab and flaky or furrowed. The root system is shallow; the
majority of the roots are close to the soil surface . The fruit is
a two-winged samara .
Height growth averages approximately 1 foot (0.3 m) per year, with
maximum growth occurring when plants are 5 to 10 years of age .
Plants become decadent at around 40 to 50 years of age. Older mountain
maples often produce more new vegetative growth than younger individuals
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Sexual reproduction: Mountain maple reproduces by seed, which is wind
disseminated . Unlike most maples, mountain maple is insect
pollinated . Seeds need to be scarified and stratified for the most
efficient germination. Mountain maple does not build up a seedbank;
more seed are found in the seedfall then in seedbanks . Germination
and seedling establishment are better on undisturbed soils. No new
germination was found in study plots that had the litter layer removed
nor was any found on plots in clearcuts . Seedling reproduction is
less important than vegetative reproduction [28,37].
Asexual reproduction: Mountain maple reproduces by sprouting from
underground, lateral stems and by layering . Root suckers are rare
. The formation of clumps or colonies usually follows disturbance
by browsing or cutting .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Mountain maple is found in cool woods where the climate is humid and
precipitation is year-round. Growing seasons range from less than 120
days to more than 170 days. It has medium moisture and nutrient
requirements, and low heat and light requirements . In the north,
mountain maple prefers rich, moist soils on rocky slopes and flats, and
along streams. Mountain maple also grows well on drier or well-drained
acid soils (podzols) [28,34,36]. Mountain maple can form a canopy on
cliff faces . It also occurs on talus slopes  and in forested
In the southern Appalachian Mountains, mountain maple is widely
distributed and locally common at elevations of 2,800 to 5,600 feet
(853-1706 m) . In the Adirondack Mountains, New York, mountain maple
ranges in elevation from 100 to 3,706 feet (30-1,130 m) but is most
abundant between 2,500 and 3,000 feet (762-914 m) [34,63].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Facultative seral species.
Mountain maple is tolerant of deep shade but also grows well in sun; it
tolerates strong sun better than does its close associate, striped maple
[5,28]. The understory light regime in which mountain maple most
commonly occurs is characterized by low, diffuse light punctuated by
short pulses of sunflecks. Mountain maple's tendency to layer rapidly
(unique amoung maples in its range) gives it a competitive advantage in
the exploitation of light gaps .
Mountain maple colonizes the understory of seral tree species as the
pioneer tree species decline, and often dominates the understory with
beaked hazel. When it is released by canopy tree harvest, mountain
maple may dominate the site within 5 to 10 years, suppressing the growth
of spruce and fir seedlings for at least 35 years . On jack pine
(Pinus banksiana) sites, decadent jack pine may be replaced by a shrub
layer that includes mountain maple; this shrub layer is then slowly
replaced by white spruce (Picea glauca), black spruce (P. mariana), and
balsam fir .
Mountain maple occurs in seral communities, such as quaking aspen
(Populus tremuloides), red pine (Pinus resinosa), or jack pine, that
have remained undisturbed for at least 10 years. It exhibits a
density/age distribution that is similar to that of climax trees [4,8].
In undisturbed, mature red pine-white pine communities in northeastern
Minnesota, mountain maple forms a dense, high shrub layer with beaked
hazel and American hazel that inhibits reproduction of later
successional species such as balsam fir and spruce .
Mountain maple occurs, usually as scattered clumps, in the understory of
spruce-fir or balsam fir climax communities [38,62].
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Mountain maple flowers from May to June, after the leaves are fully
developed [28,55]. Fruit ripens from mid-September to mid-October .
SPECIES: Acer spicatum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Mountain maple occurs in some habitats, sucah as boreal mixed woods,
which are at least moderately susceptible to fire. Fire was the major
mode for stand replacement in these forests prior to fire suppression
. Red pine-white pine forests in the northern parts of the Great
Lakes states have a fire regime of relatively short-interval,
low-intensity surface fires, which prevents the development of balsam
fir-white spruce-northern white-cedar and other shade-tolerant invaders,
such as mountain maple [26,42]. Laddering crown fires in pine forests
with balsam fir, spruce, and northern white-cedar understories prevent
the development of tall shrub layers of hazel, alder, and mountain
maple. Fire exclusion is now encouraging balsam fir-spruce-northern
white-cedar types with mountain maple in the tall shrub layers [8,26].
Mountain maple also occurs in communities that are not susceptible to
fire, such as the red spruce-balsam fir forest of upper elevations, and
the mixed hardwood-conifer forests of lower slopes .
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
SPECIES: Acer spicatum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Mountain maple is girdled at the root collar by low-severity, surface
fires, and is killed by severe fires .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Top-killed mountain maple sprouts from underground stems or from the
root-collar [7,12]. Growth rates of 12 to 30 inches (0.3-0.75 m) for
the first postfire growing season have been reported . Krefting and
others , however, found that burning individual plants did not
increase the amount of regrowth compared with unburned controls.
Mountain maple seedling establishment is not enhanced by bare mineral
In eastern North America, coastal fir forests can be replaced by
shrublands of speckled alder and mountain maple after fire, particularly
on fertile soils . Mountain maple also invades pine forest sites
that have been repeatedly burned .
Spring fires appear to have little effect on cover of mountain maple; it
neither increases nor decreases. During the first summer after the
Little Sioux Burn (which occurred in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in
May), mountain maple was abundant, with a varying distribution, but it
was also abundant in areas that did not burn . Tall shrub density
fluctuated in following years, but by 1975 was generally lower than in
1971 . A prescribed fire in aspen-mixed hardwood in Minnesota
resulted in a decline in the amount of mountain maple .
Postfire succession in spruce-fir will usually not include mountain
maple until the pioneering birch and aspen trees become decadent, 50 or
more years after fire .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
SPECIES: Acer spicatum
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