Red Maple (Acer rubrum L.)

 

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) in autumn
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) in autumn. Photo by Donna L. Long.

The Red Maple is red all over.  The tree has red twigs, buds, flowers, and fall leaves.

The Red Maple is a pretty tree. It fills so many roles such as shade, specimen, autumn accent, or on a wet site. It’s easy to establish, grows rapidly and produces brightly colored flowers and fruit, and fall leaf colors (ranging from clear yellow to orange to vivid red). Because of this, it displays coloring during several seasons of the year.

The Red Maple grows faster than both Silver Maple and Box Elder. It is a good choice if you need a tree to grow quickly. Red Maple is a tough plant that can be planted onto many types of disturbed sites in rehabilitation and restoration projects.

The tree doesn’t like other plants growing within its drip line (the outer most reach of the branches). The dense roots make it hard for any other plant to grow.

Male (staminate) trees may grow faster than female ones. Average longevity for red maple is about 80-100 years, but trees are known to reach 200 years of age.

The seeds, buds, and flowers are eaten by various wildlife species. Squirrels and chipmunks store the seeds. White-tailed deer, moose, elk browse red maple. And rabbits eat the stump sprouts, especially in fall and winter.

Cavities in red maples in river-floodplain communities are often well suited for cavity nesters such as the wood duck and others.

 

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) - buds in spring
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) buds in spring. Photo by Donna L. Long.

 

Attracts: Many insects (bird chick food). The Red Maple sets pollen early in the spring. This early pollen is important to bees and pollinators.

Host plant to Moths – Ruby Quaker (Orthosia rubescens), Baltimore Bomolocha (Bomolocha baltimoralis), Maple Looper (Parallelia bistriaris), Green-Striped Mapleworm (Dryocampa rubicunda), various Emerald moths and Lesser Maple Spanworm (Itame pustularia).

Native range: Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley; widely distributed tree in eastern North America, extending from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, then south through Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and southern Texas, and east to southern Florida.

Habitat: The Red Maple is found in bottomlands and it is tolerant of waterlogged soils and flooding.  But it is a “super generalist,” growing on the widest variety of sites and in the greatest range of conditions (sunny or shady, high or low nutrients, dry or moist) of any North American species.

Height: up to 60-90 feet (20 m) tall; spreads 30-40 feet

Light needed: sun to shade

Hardiness zones: to zone 3

Bloom period: (February-) March-April, before the vegetative buds, one of the first trees to flower in the spring, fruiting: April-June, before leaf development is complete

Bloom color: pink to dark red

Growing Tips: Red maple is easily transplanted and is one of the easiest trees to grow. A prolific seed producer with trees as young as four years may begin to bear seeds. Good seed crops are usually produced in alternate years. Up to 95% of viable seeds germinate in the first 10 days.

Red MapleTree (Acer rubrum) leaf. Photo by Donna L. Long.
Red MapleTree (Acer rubrum) leaf. Photo by Donna L. Long.

3 comments

  1. Beautiful photos. The red is spectacular. Thanks for your inspiration.

    • You are more than welcome. It’s so warm here in Philly, it doesn’t seems like Fall will never come. The leaves are due to change in 2 weeks!

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