Red Maple (Acer rubrum L.)

tree - red maple
Red Maple Tree (Acer rubrum) with brilliant fall foliage.

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

The Red Maple Tree (Acer rubrum) 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. See Why Leaves Change Color in Fall.

Red Maple Characteristics

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 outermost 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.

Red Maple’s Role in the Ecosystem 

The seeds, buds, and flowers are eaten by various wildlife species. Squirrels and chipmunks store the seeds. White-tailed deer, moose, elk browse the tree’s leaves and buds. 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 buds
Red Maple Tree (Acer rubrum) buds in spring.

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 Plants to Moths and Butterflies

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). See Caterpillars (Butterfly Life Cycle).

Native Range

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.

Natural Habitat 

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.

Red Maple Facts 

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

How to Grow a Red Maple

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.



Red Maple is an indigenous tree which gives the northeastern and mid-Atlantic North America our spectacular fall colors. If we want to see brilliant fall color in the future we need to plant the indigenous trees that change their leaf colors as winter approaches. 


Related Information 

Studying Trees Buds: A Winter Nature Journal Activity

Native Street Trees for Philadelphia and the MidAtlantic 

Why Leaves Change Color with a Video

Leaf Colors of Common Trees Here in the Oak-Hickory Forest

Why Trees Drop Their Leaves in the Fall with Video

Finding Fall Foliage 

Fall Foliage Reports –  – Fun Fact: 60% of PA is forest. 



    • 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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