I admit that I’ve been calling the trees in our yard oaks or maples interchangeably. Except for the red maple. That one stands out on its own.
I decided that it’s time to learn the difference between the two. I started with a few google searches which quickly left me even more confused. Lots of people were asking the same question so at least I’m not alone here.
The oak is a member of genus quercus while the maple belongs to the genus acer. Maple leaves are classified as simple, opposite and broadleaf. This means that maple leaves are broad rather than needle-like, each stem contains a single leaf and the leaves grow opposite one another on the branch. The leaves of the oak are simple, alternate and broadleaf. Oak leaves are broad with a single leaf on each stem, but oak leaves alternate along the length of the branch.
The easiest way to figure out if you have an oak tree is to look for acorns.
Maples don’t have acorns and grow samaras or maple keys.
But what if you can’t see the tree’s seed? I’d like to be able to know the difference at a distance. Let’s get back to the leaves. The green leaf is a maple leaf and the yellow leaf is an oak leaf. This seems simple enough.
But, maple leaves also look like this red leaf. The leaves at our house mostly look like this one.
Here are some real photos that clarify things even more. These leaves are typical in New England.
While doing my research, I learned that an oak tree doesn’t produce acorns until it is at least 20 years old…sometimes 50 years old. They live for hundreds of years and can drink 50 gallons of water in a day! Incredible.
The maple tree is the standout in the fall when the foliage changes to bright vibrant colors.
It all seems to easy now. I feel pretty silly for growing up in New England and not knowing the difference.
Do you favor oaks or maples? I’m guessing we only have maples in our yard because they are typically smaller and more manageable. What kind of trees live in your yard?