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I'm reading this question What is the average lifespan of most maple trees? and the answer mentions:

Silver maple 100 years (I cannot imagine why you would want to plant this species)

followed by a comment:

Silver Maples in urban areas are trouble. Their roots seek water and infiltrate water pipes. They have a poor branch structure that unusual weather can cause broken branches or splits in branches.

With such bad press about this tree, I looked it up and googled the images and lo and behold, that's my tree!

It saddened me a bit since my brother-in-law gave me this seedling from his yard (as mine was barren of any trees) and I've been really happy with how fast it's been growing. The leaves are full and pretty and it's about 15 feet high.

I really don't want to take down this tree, so what can I do to improve the branch structure? How realistic a concern is infiltrates water pipes? (the main water pipe to the house is not that far away from the tree) Are the roots drilling through metal?

  • 1
    Hug it til it dies, then plant a memorial oak in its place. Heartwood on silver maple tends to go punky, and carpenter ants love that. – Wayfaring Stranger Oct 21 '14 at 14:37
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The structural problems that silver maples usually have include:

If you consistently trim the width over the next four or five years to promote vertical growth and you remove any branches with narrow angles or included bark you can reduce the risk of branches breaking off in wind or ice storms. This guide is for fruit trees but the ideas apply to what you want to do.

The other issue to address is how close is the tree to any structures or parking areas? Urban areas are unnatural for trees. The soil is different and they are not planted with the same density as a forest. In a forest a tree can depend on it's neighbours to buffer high winds. This is not true in urban environments and silver maples can blow over and break things like your house or car.

Lastly the issue of water seeking roots. Tree roots cannot drill through metal or plastic. However, depending on the age of pipes there may be pinpoint leaks at the joins. Where there is water ----> roots will go. Roots can go into a pipe where there is the tiniest gap.

Only you can do a complete analysis of whether this tree should be kept or not. Talk to a local arborist and get some costs:

  • how much to remove it now?
  • how much to give it some structural pruning on a yearly or bi yearly basis for four or five years?
  • how much to remove a full grown silver maple (assume full grown after fifty years)
  • what could it fall on and how much would it cost to fix? Are you insured?
  • has your area had high wind storms or ice storms in the last ten years?

If the silver maple clogs your water pipes fifteen years from now how much could it cost to get new pipe laid?

I know this answer sounds like it's all about money but as a homeowner you will be responsible for what happens to the tree. If you are unsure hire an arborist for an opinion and estimate now. It's much cheaper to spend a little money now than a lot of money later.

  • Hope it helps, my answer seems to have more questions than answers! – kevinsky Mar 17 '12 at 15:28
  • updated link to an even better reference – kevinsky Oct 21 '14 at 10:04

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