Maple Tree Identification By Leaf (+Chart & Pictures)

There are over 100 species of maple worldwide. In this guide, I’ll focus on the maple tree identification by leaf for the most common maple trees in North America.

Deciduous maple tree species are known for their spectacular autumn colors. Leaves of maple trees are generally palmately lobed, growing in opposite pairs, with the exception of Manitoba maple (Box Elder), which has compound leaves.

Read on to discover how to identify maple tree leaves.

Maple Leaf Identification Chart

Illustrative maple leaf identification chart showing nine different types of maple leaves with corresponding labels: 'Silver Maple,' 'Red Maple,' 'Bigleaf Maple,' 'Striped Maple,' 'Mountain Maple,' 'Manitoba Maple,' 'Sugar Maple,' 'Vine Maple,' and 'Black Maple.' Each leaf is depicted in a detailed line drawing emphasizing the unique features of each maple species.

Sugar Maple Leaf

Side-by-side comparison of a real Sugar Maple leaf against its illustration. On the left, a fresh green Sugar Maple leaf lies on a forest floor sprinkled with brown leaves, and on the right, a detailed line drawing of the same leaf type. Below both images is the label 'Sugar Maple Leaf'
Acer Saccharum

Sugar maple leaves measure between 8 to 20 cm in length and are generally a bit wider than they are long.

Most of these leaves have five lobes, though sometimes you might come across just three-lobed ones. Each lobe ends in a long, blunt point and the edges have a few wavy, irregular teeth.

The middle lobe is almost square-shaped and stands out because it’s separated from the side lobes by big, rounded gaps.

When you look at a sugar maple leaf, you’ll notice its top side is a deep, yellowish-green color. The underside is a lighter shade and doesn’t have any hair.

As the seasons change, these leaves put on a spectacular show, turning from yellow to stunning shades of orange and bright red during the autumn.

The leaf is attached to the tree by a stalk, which is about 4 to 8 cm long.

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Sugar maple vs Red maple identification

Black Maple Leaf

Side-by-side comparison of a real Sugar Maple leaf against its illustration. On the left, a fresh green Sugar Maple leaf lies on a forest floor sprinkled with brown leaves, and on the right, a detailed line drawing of the same leaf type. Below both images is the label 'Sugar Maple Leaf'
Acer Nigrum


Black maple leaves can sometimes be confused with sugar maple, but they have a few distinctive features that make them easy to identify.

The main distinctive feature of the black maple leaf is its wilted look, which is typical and helps in identifying the tree. Pointy drooping leaves edges of leaves resemble claws.

Black maple leaves usually have three lobes, edged with a few subtle teeth. Occasionally, you might find a leaf with five lobes, but this is less common. The central lobe narrows down a bit and is set apart from the side lobes by open, shallow notches.

The top of the leaf is rich, dark green, while the underside is lighter yellowish-green with dense, brownish, velvety hairs, which gives it a distinctive texture.

As autumn arrives, the leaves transform to shades of yellow or brownish-yellow. It’s rare to see them turn the vivid red that sugar maple leaves are known for.

The leaf stalk is also hairy and measures between 6 to 10 cm in length, adding to the leaf’s unique characteristics.

Bigleaf Maple Leaf

Comparison of a real Bigleaf Maple leaf and its illustration. To the left, a large green Bigleaf Maple leaf with a reddish stem shows some natural wear, set against a background of similar leaves and forest debris. On the right, a line drawing accurately depicts the leaf's distinct lobed shape.
Acer Macrophyllum

Bigleaf maple leaves are among the largest of any maple species. The leaf margin is often the size of your head. They can grow a whopping 15 to 30 cm in width, and in some cases, they can even reach up to 60 cm! These leaves are almost as long as they are wide, with deep narrow U-shaped notches.

Each leaf typically has five lobes, with a few irregular, blunt, and wavy large teeth along the leaf edges.

On the top, the leaf showcases a shiny dark green color, while the underside is paler green and completely hairless. In autumn, the leaves change into vibrant shades of bright orange or yellow, creating a breathtaking display of fall foliage.

An interesting characteristic of the bigleaf maple is its leaf stalk, which releases a milky sap when cut. This unique feature distinguishes it from many other maple species.

Red Maple Leaf

A fresh Red Maple leaf in nature next to its illustration. On the left, the leaf is shown in its natural environment, with vibrant green coloring and delicate veins visible, while on the right, a detailed line drawing captures the intricate edges and lobes of the Red Maple leaf.
Acer Rubrum

Red maple is a common Candian maple tree. Red maple leaves range from 5 to 15 cm in length and about the same in width. They typically feature three to five-lobed leaves, each edged with sharp, irregular teeth that give them a textured look. The central lobe has sides running almost parallel to the central vein, creating a unique shape that’s easy to recognize.

The lobes are separated by wide V-shaped notches. The upper side of the leaf is light green, while the underside is a whitened green.

It’s in the autumn that the red maple truly lives up to its name. The leaves turn a brilliant bright red that captures the essence of fall. This spectacular color change makes the red maple a favorite among trees for adding color to gardens and parks.

The leaf stalk is about 5 to 10 cm long.

Silver Maple Leaf

Comparison between a group of Silver Maple leaves and a drawn representation. On the left, the photo shows a cluster of green Silver Maple leaves with jagged edges in a natural setting, while the right side features a detailed line drawing of a similar leaf.
Acer saccharinum

Silver maple leaves measure about 15 to 20 cm in length. Common features are 5 to 7 lobes, which are broadest just above the base, giving the leaf a distinctive shape. The edges of these lobes are lined with coarse, sharp, and irregular teeth.

The lobes have deep, narrow notches. The top of the leaf is a light green color, while the underside presents a silvery-white hue, hence the clue for the silver maple’s name.

As autumn arrives, the leaves of the silver maple turn a pale yellow or brownish color, rarely red.

Manitoba Maple Leaf

Side-by-side display of Manitoba Maple leaves in nature and in illustration. The left image captures the lush green, multi-lobed leaves of the Manitoba Maple in its natural setting. To the right, two line drawings replicate the leaf's shape, one showing a single compound leaf and the other a close-up of an individual leaflet. Manitoba maple is also known as Boxelder
Acer Negundo

Manitoba maple leaves are easy to spot because, unlike other maples, they have compound leaflets. This means they’re made up of multiple smaller leaflets arranged along a central stem rather than being a single piece. Typically, a Manitoba maple leaf has between 3 and 9 of these leaflets.

Leaflets are about 5 to 12 cm long and feature shallow, irregular, and coarsely toothed or lobed edges. They often have an asymmetrical shape, adding to the tree’s distinctive look. The top side of the leaflets is a light green, while the underside is a grayish-green, and they’re usually hairless.

When fall comes around, the leaves turn a beautiful shade of yellow, brightening up the landscape.

Mountain Maple Leaf

Real and illustrated Mountain Maple leaves presented side by side. On the left, a photo showcases a group of soft green Mountain Maple leaves with fine veins, slightly toothed edges. To the right, an intricate line drawing captures a single Mountain Maple leaf's detailed structure.
Acer Spicatum

Mountain maple is a small bushy tree. Its leaves range from 6 to 12 cm in length and nearly as wide. They typically have 3 to 5 leaf lobes, with coarse, irregular small teeth. The edges of these teeth tend to curve outward.

The central lobe is shaped like a triangle, and it’s separated from the side by lobes wedge-shaped notches.

On the top, these leaves are yellowish-green, while the underside is white and covered in fine hairs. When autumn arrives, the mountain maple leaves transform into a stunning display of red, yellow, or brown.

The leaf stalk is slender and reddish brown.

Striped Maple Leaf

Real Striped Maple leaves next to illustration. On the left, the image displays a collection of vibrant green Striped Maple leaves in a natural forest ground setting, while the right features a precise line drawing of a Striped Maple leaf, highlighting its detailed veining and shape.
Acer Pensylvanicum

Striped maple leaves look similar to mountain maple leaves but have more finely toothed edges. They measure about 10 to 16 cm in length and are often wider than they’re long.

These leaves are characterized by their 3 shallow lobes on the upper portion, each ending in long, fine tips that point forward. The edges of the leaves are evenly double-toothed.

The central lobe is broadly triangular.

Both sides of the leaf are pale yellowish-green and completely hairless. In autumn, the leaves turn a beautiful shade of yellow.

The leaf is attached to the branch by a stalk that is 3 to 8 cm long.

Douglas Maple Leaf

A real Douglas Maple leaf next to sketched one. The left side shows the natural leaves with their red stalks. On the right, a detailed drawing of a Douglas Maple leaf, along with an inset close-up showing the leaf's veins and edges.
Acer Glabrum Douglasii

Douglas maple leaves measure about 7 to 14 cm in length and about as wide. These leaves are thin and have 3 to 5 lobes, each with coarsely double-toothed edges. The outer edges of these teeth often curve outward.

The notches between the lobes are usually shallow, narrowing down to sharp slits. In some cases, these notches can be so deep that they divide the leaf into 3 leaflets.

The leaf is dark green on top and softer grayish-green on the underside. Both sides are completely hairless. As the seasons change, the leaves turn dull red in autumn.

The leaf stalk ranges from 3 to 12 cm in length, often with a reddish tone.

Vine Maple Leaf

This image showcases a natural and illustrated Vine Maple leaf. On the left, several green Vine Maple leaves are featured against a gray stone and wooden debris. On the right, a detailed line drawing accurately reflects the leaf's triangular lobes and veining.
Acer circinatum

Vine maple leaves are almost rounded in shape and measure from 3 to 10 cm across. These leaves typically have 7 to 9 lobes. The edges of these lobes are either single- or double-toothed.

The lobes themselves are narrowly triangular and are separated by narrow V-shaped notches, creating a symmetrical appearance.

On the top, the leaves are a bright yellowish-green color The underside is a paler green and starts the spring with a hairy texture, which becomes hairless as the seasons progress.

In autumn, the vine maple leaves transform into stunning shades of red or yellow.

Norway Maple Leaf

Comparison of a real Norway Maple leaf with its illustrative counterpart. On the left, a green Norway Maple leaf is set against a blurred forest floor background. The right side features a black and white line drawing that captures the leaf's distinct shape and edges.
Acer Platanoides

Norway maple leaves have 5 to 7 lobes (rarely 3 to 5 lobes). The tips of the leaves and teeth are either bristle-tipped or blunt-pointed, depending on the variety. The upper surface of the leaf is dark green or sometimes yellowish-green, while the underside is shiny green.

Similar to bigleaf maple, the Norway maple releases the milky juice from cut leaf stalks, bud scales, and twigs. This milky sap makes it easy to identify.

In the autumn, the leaves usually turn stunning red or orange color.

Sycamore Maple Leaf

This image displays a real Sycamore Maple leaf beside its illustration. On the left, a cluster of large, green Sycamore Maple leaves are seen in a natural setting, showing their veins and lobes. To the right, a detailed line drawing depicts the leaf's shape.
Acer Pseudoplatanus

The sycamore maple, a majestic tree introduced from Europe, has become a popular shade tree in Canada, the United States, and Europe, thanks to its large and expansive canopy. The leaves of the sycamore maple measure 6 to 14 cm in length and about the same in width.

The leaves have 5 lobes and single-toothed edges, which give them a classic maple leaf shape. However, what sets them apart is their texture and color. The leaves are thick and have a wrinkled surface. The upper side of the leaf is a vibrant dark green, while the underside has a shade of whitish- or purplish-green.

Amur Maple Leaf

Displaying both a live and a sketched Amur Maple leaf. On the left, the photo presents vibrant green Amur Maple leaves with reddish stalks in their natural setting. The right side shows a line drawing of an Amur Maple leaf, emphasizing its characteristic edges and veining.
Acer Ginnala

The Amur maple, native to Eastern Asia, is renowned for its striking red foliage. Its leaves measure 8 to 10 cm in length and feature a narrowly triangular shape with shallow notches.

Two side lobes are much shorter than a central lobe.

The edges of these leaves are coarsely toothed.

Japanese Maple Leaf

This composition highlights a real Japanese Maple leaf alongside its line drawing. The left side shows a close-up of delicate, green Japanese Maple leaves set against background. The right side presents a line drawing that depicts the leaf's slender lobes and intricate detail.
Acer Palmatum

Japanese maple leaves have 5-9 lobes, double-toothed with sharp V-shaped notches.

In autumn, the leaves turn yellow, bronze or red.

Read more:

Common types of maple trees in Canada

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