Where do the different types of maple come from? Is big leaf maple just maple? How about rock and hard maple? Is there an easy way to distinguish between the different types?
The red leaf is a bit more expensive and has little worm track in it. The silver has the worm track, and is therefore cheaper and less desirable.
All other maples are soft maples (almost). Vine maple is at least as hard if not harder than rock maple, but too small for anything but tool handles, where hickory and ash are not available.
In the East, there are three species in the Acer genus -- soft maple (red and silver), hard maple (sugar and black), and boxelder. Out West, Acer macrophyllum is big leaf maple. It generally falls between red and silver maple in properties, but it is probably incorrect to sell it as soft maple.
Gene Wengert, forum moderator