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Top 20 Shade Trees for San Antonio!
Custom Plant Information by Wilson Landscape Nursery & Florist- Helotes, Texas
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"Top Twenty" #4
Bigtooth Maple ( Acer grandidentatum)
You have come to a great tree in your search! We at Wilson's hope that you find this plant information to be helpful and interesting. Let us know if we can help you further as you search for that special tree.
Our information is based upon decades of loving trees, learning about trees, growing trees, maintaining trees, talking about trees, selling trees. planting trees, watching trees grow, enjoying the beauty of trees and being grateful to God for creating trees!
“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” “And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 2:9; 1:12)
Strengths and Weaknesses Listed
All trees have weaknesses and strengths. In order to thoroughly evaluate a tree, you should consider both. Let me begin by offering some strengths of Bigtooth Maple and then I will describe some weaknesses. You will be happy to discover that this trees strengths overcome its weaknesses! In fact, from our viewpoint, Bigtooth Maple is near the top of the list coming in at #4. But perhaps, it will become your number #1 choice.
Strengths of Bigtooth Maple
Strength: Attractive Form and Leaves
The Bigtooth Maple is just a pretty tree to look at and not commonly seen in urban plantings. Some people buy it for the fall foliage perhaps overlooking its equal or greater value as a tree with exceptionally attractive form and beautiful green leaves. The tree develops a majestic tiered look with age.
Strength: Brightens Up A Dark Green Native Landscape
Its leaves brighten up our dark green native landscapes filled with more common natives like Live Oaks, Cedar Elms and Cedars (Ash junipers). These trees have dark green leaves and dark bark. The Bigtooth Maple offers a nice contrast with its bright green luxuriant leaves and lighter colored bark. The leaves show off the classic maple leaf shape as well.
Strength: Fall Foliage
Those of us who have seen Sugar Maples growing in the Northeast and other northern states know how beautiful these maple trees are. It is nice to know that we have a Maple tree that is a close cousin of those growing so beautifully elsewhere. Many of us have seen the beautiful fall colors these maples provide and are happy to hear that we can grow these beautiful trees here for fall color as well. This is partly true at least.
Best Color Potential For Planted Bigtooth Maples
If you purchase a Bigtooth Maple and plant it in your yard, can you expect to receive good fall foliage? Most locations north and west of Highway 46 will receive good color. This includes the Boerne area and areas north and west of there including Fredericksburg. This includes Highway 16 past the Bandera county line and Hill Country areas north and west from there including the towns of Bandera, Kerville and Medina. Of course, the natural hot spot for fall color is west of Bandera and east of Leakey, near the little town of Vanderpool where Lost Maples State Natural area is located. These areas will usually receive better fall color because of the more appropriate climate for fall foliage in general.
Strength: Drought Tolerant
Even though Bigtooth Maples survive naturally in cooler more well watered locations, they are surprisingly tough and drought tolerant when planted anywhere in our area. In the deep canyons where they grow, there is abundant soil in the midst of all those rocks. Bigtooth Maples actually prefers some rockiness mixed in with some good topsoil to be at its best. Once established, Bigtooth Maples can survive on rainfall alone but will prefer some watering when conditions become dry.
Strength: Moderate Growth Rate
Bigtooth Maples have a moderate growth rate, two to three feet per year once established. This is about equal to the growth rate of Live Oaks. Their growth rate can be sped up with occasional deep watering.
Strength: Long Lived
These trees can live hundreds of years and develop even more character with age.
Strength: Can Grow in Full Sun Or Part Shade
In their native environment, Bigtooth Maples grow in sheltered canyons with full sun, but only for part of the day. So, the Bigtooth can do well in full sun. Fortunately it can also do well in a yard with other trees and will do just fine with some intermittent shade as it would in a more native environment.
All trees have weaknesses and strengths. In order to thoroughly evaluate a tree, you should consider both. You will be happy to discover that this trees strengths overcome its weaknesses!
Weakness: Difficult to Propagate And Expensive
Bigtooth Maple trees are not the easiest trees to propagate by seed. Part of the problem is finding seed that is viable. Many trees put on many seeds but they are often sterile around here. Only a few knowledgeable growers have been successful in our area. Areas with viable seed are often on private land. Other areas such as Utah have more trees with viable seed and there are growers and university studies throughout the country with more advanced propagation methods. Because of so few growers in our area, Bigtooth Maples are harder to find and so the market necessitates that they be sold at a higher price. You can expect to pay almost twice as much for a Bigtooth Maple as for another comparable native tree.
Weakness: Not As Fast As Other Good Choices
If you are looking for a large shade tree within 10 years, perhaps Bigtooth Maple is not the best choice. If you are satisfied with watching a beautiful tree growing that has great potential for future generations then this one is for you. The Bigtooth Maples begins with a very nice growth rate but seems to slow down with age, after twenty years or so. Occasional deep watering can speed up its growth.
Weakness: Fall Foliage Undependable
Awesome fall foliage is not a guarantee in the San Antonio area. Trees can begin to turn brown on the leaf edges and look wind blown by late summer through September before fall foliage season begins. What is left of the leaf, that is not brown, offers less potential color when it finally does turn. Lost Maples State Natural Area typically shows color from late October to mid-November. The immediate San Antonio area will be a week to two weeks behind, depending on the year. Remember, that even though awesome color is not guaranteed, you will still be able to enjoy the beautiful green leaves from spring to summer.
Weakness: Fall Color and San Antonio
Trees planted in the immediate San Antonio area will usually not enjoy as intense of color. This is due to differences in climate. Bigtooth Maples need cool nights and dry sunny days to give the best color. There can be a five to ten degree temperature difference between San Antonio and points in the Hill Country, especially at night, which is just enough to make a color difference. The deep canyons of the Hill Country where Bigtooth Maples grow naturally are a mini-climate of their own, different even from the hill tops above them. In addition, the immediate San Antonio area may receive more rainfall and humidity than the Hill Country. When fall rains are abundant and humidity is greater, color does not show up as well. This is because the fall rains stimulate more green growth which delays the fall color reveal. By the time favorable cool weather arrives, trees will begin to show some color but will also have already suffered leaf tissue damage due to the long hot summer. Often by late summer and early fall, trees begin to show some browning.
Weakness: Longer Growing Season Hinders Fall Color
In the Northeast, maple trees do not have to hold on to their leaves as long as our maples do, and the temperatures, during the growing season, are cooler. Leaves preserve better on the tree and the favorable period for developing color lasts longer as well. On the other hand, when cooler weather finally arrives in the San Antonio area, it may not last long. Things can heat up again, enough to interrupt the favorable conditions necessary for the development of color. Later in fall when cool weather is more consistent, hard freezing temperatures may not be far behind. There is just not enough time for the proper conditions to develop and display awesome fall color. Even at Lost Maples State Natural area, it is not unusual to have a bad color year. Fortunately, as far as Lost Maples State Natural Area goes, there are years when the color is as spectacular as the Northeast on the Bigtooth Maples that do live there.
Mini-climates Within Ones Own Yard May Make a Difference in Color
In my own yard, I planted three Bigtooth Maples about 20 years ago. The trees have done very well but I have been disappointed many years with their fall foliage display. On the other side of my neighborhood, about a ¼ of a mile away, another Bigtooth Maple was planted. That tree shows beautiful red fall color just about every year! It gets no artificial irrigation and yet looks very healthy. I have tried to figure out why my trees seldom seem to show the color that this other tree does. Possible explanations are that my three trees were planted by my large water garden. I wonder if I have possibly created a min-climate that is not conducive to fall foliage, causing slightly higher nighttime temperatures, because of the nearness of the water, and more humidity. Perhaps the subtle differences in temperature and humidity are enough to make the difference since I live near the dividing line of where reliable fall color and unreliable color is to be expected, anyway. This same scenario, on a larger scale, is often the difference between the better fall foliage of the Hill Country Bigtooth Maples as compared to the trees planted in the immediate San Antonio area.
More About Bigtooth Maple
Bigtooth Maples Native Range
Bigtooth Maple is very much related to the Sugar Maples of the Northeast, Ohio Valley and numerous other states from the Midwest to the eastern USA. Though a close cousin of these eastern Sugar Maples, the Bigtooth grows most abundantly in the Rocky Mountain canyons of the western United States. Bigtooth Maple is most common in the Wasatch Mountain range. This is a low mountain range stretching south from Wyoming into Colorado along the Utah border. It is especially abundant along this range east of Salt Lake City, Utah. Other notable stands outside of Texas include a small area in southwestern Oklahoma. In New Mexico, Bigtooth Maple can be found southeast of Albuquerque in the Monzano mountains.
Bigtooth Maples Native Range in Texas
The largest stands of Bigtooth Maples in Texas grow in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in far west Texas near the New Mexico border. Closer to home they grow most abundantly in Lost Maples State Natural area near Vanderpool, not that far from Garner State Park. The closest they come to San Antonio, in their natural range, is in the deep canyons of Tapatio Springs west of Boerne. It is not as if they grow everywhere throughout the Hill Country. They grow only in the deepest well-watered canyons which provide cooler mini climates.
Bigtooth Maple: Survivor From a Different World Climate
How the Bigtooth Maple tree survived here goes back to the Ice Age. Some scientists believe this Ice Age started about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago. Others scientists believe that the worldwide flood of Noah caused the Ice age about four thousand years ago. Regardless, because of the extensive ice cover in the northern states and around the world, the climate of South-Central Texas was far cooler thousands of years ago than it is today. As the ice melted and receded, the climate warmed up. The once abundant and widespread Bigtooth Maples were only able to survive in the coolest deeply sheltered canyons where spring water was abundant. Today, Bigtooth Maples growing in these mini-climates continue to live and re-seed, though they have not spread naturally from these sheltered areas. Many feel that the overpopulation of deer, sheep and goats and other livestock have hindered the spread of these beautiful trees and have certainly damaged areas where the trees are not protected through over-grazing.
Caution: Be Sure to Buy the Right Kind of Maple Tree
Few Maple trees do well in South-Central Texas. Bigtooth Maple is exceptional! Stay away from two other Maple trees sometimes planted her called Red Maple (Acer rubrum) and Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum). Neither of these do well in our area. Red Maple will eventually develop chlorosis becoming a sickly yellow since it is not well adapted to our alkaline soils. Silver Maples will grow here but they will look stressed during the heat of summer. They are short lived with brittle wood.
The same can be said of the various beautiful Japanese Maples. These do well from East Texas eastward. Japanese Maples usually look very good for the first year or so, especially in the Spring to early Summer and then again in the Fall. However, they will not look good in the hot summer and need special soil enhancement and acidic fertilizer to continue to look good, even in the cooler growing season after a few years. I would still recommend giving them a try since they are so beautiful, even if only for three or four months each year. Bigtooth Maple, on the other hand, is the right choice for our soil conditions and climate all year round.
Maples That Hold Future Promise
There are two less well known Maples that do show promise for our area. These are the Shantung Maple (Acer truncatum) and the Mexican Cloud Sugar Maple (Acer skutchii).
Shantung Maple has been designated a “Texas Super Star” which is quite an honor that should be respected. According to the Texas A&M Agricultural Program, Shantung Maple had been tested for 12 years state-wide, and because of the success of those trials, was given the “Texas Super Star” designation, a title reserved only for proven performers. It is a small to medium sized Maple in the small ornamental tree class like a Crepe Myrtle rather than a large shade tree. It gives somewhat of that Japanese Maple look but can handle our tough conditions much better than Japanese Maple. So far, in my own personal testing, I have found this to be true. Although the trees I have planted are still small, they are doing well. More time is needed to truly evaluate them but they are definitely worth giving a try.
Mexican Cloud Sugar Maple
I am most excited about the Mexican Cloud Sugar Maple. This is a very rare tree around here and holds promise! It is definitely a new comer to our area. It is native to the cloud forests of Mexico and Guatemala and seems to tolerate our alkaline soils well. It has very large leaves. The leaves are larger than Bigtooth Maple. Preliminary testing and propagation by other growers, especially by Dr. Creech at Stephen F. Austin University, has resulted in positive reviews. Our own trials at Wilson's seems to confirm this trees potential. It may not be for everyone or every location. It will need some soil enhancement and regular watering to keep it looking good. It puts on an extensive fibrous root system so it seems to dry out faster than our natives. When it dries out, damage can show up on the large leaves. It can show some sun burn but still look good. It may have the same fall foliage limitations that Bigtooth Maples have. But, put in the right yard, with the right gardener, and we may have another excellent Maple for our are area. What is needed now is more propagation and availability since few know about this potentially great tree. The tree is also rare in Mexico and Guatemala living only in isolated Cloud Forests.
Bigtooth Maples For Sale At Wilson's
Each year we usually have a good supply of Bigtooth Maples. Typically these are sold as 5 gallon, 15 gallon, 30 gallon and 45 gallon. Larger trees are occasionally available as well. Keep in mind that each year we usually sell out of trees early in the fall season, so come early.
A Blessing For You
We hope that this plant information helps you as you search for that perfect tree. Whichever tree you choose, may it bring you many years of beauty and peace.
May you and your tree be “like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3)
If you are interested in buying or browsing Bigtooth Maple Trees in Helotes or San Antonio, Wilson Landscape Nursery has an impressive stock of all sizes and shapes of trees. We grow all of our trees from acorns and seeds and only use the best fertilizers. We have beautiful Bigtooth Maple Trees to choose from. We specialize in tree growing, and we only grow native and well adapted Texas trees, so you can be sure they will flourish. Best of all, Glenn and Sherry are plant experts and would love to answer any and all questions and concerns you may have about your specific tree needs. Our knowledge is something hard to come by. Come on in or give us a call today!
BigTooth Maple Tree
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