Homeowners choose maple trees for their quick growth and fall foliage, but it pays to consider the tree's root system. Many maple varieties have shallow, spreading roots that mandate careful site selection.
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The forgiving ways of the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) make it popular in backyards as well as rehabilitated areas. Silver maples establish easily, grow fast, and adapt to a wide variety of terrain. However, the silver maple's shallow but vigorous root system can damage sidewalks, clog drain pipes, and penetrate septic systems.
The red maple (Acer rubrum) delights with its vivid fall colours. It is a "supergeneralist," growing in a vast range of conditions -- including deep shade -- and variety of sites. This maple's surface roots are not as aggressive as those of the silver maple.
Perhaps the most celebrated of the large Acer family, the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is the national tree of Canada. An excellent shade tree with wide, spreading branches, the sugar maple is renowned for its sugary sap. The sugar maple's shallow root system prevents grass from growing under its canopy.
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