Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Acer rubrum

Red maple, Scarlet maple, Soft maple

Aceraceae (Maple Family)

Acer rubrum (Red maple)
Cressler, Alan
Large tree with narrow or rounded, compact crown and red flowers, fruit, leafstalks, and autumn foliage. This popular ornamental tree grows 40-60 ft. in cultivation, occasionally reaching 100-120 ft. in the wild. Leaves vary from 3- to 5-lobed, with lobes separated by V-shaped angles. Male trees have notable pinkish red flowers in early spring, and females display decorative red samaras soon after. Young, vigorous trees have smooth, silvery gray bark which provides winter interest. Roots in a dense, fibrous network, often preventing other plants from growing near its trunk. Fall foliage is quite variable, ranging from the brilliant red for which the species is known, to yellow or greenish-yellow. Three varieties are commonly recognized: Variety rubrum has 5-lobed leaves that are smooth or hairy only along the midvein on the underside. Variety drummondii, known as Drummond Maple, Drummond Red Maple, or Swamp Maple, has 3- to 5-lobed leaves that are hairy over their entire lower surface. It tends to prefer moist, swampy sites. Variety trilobum, Trident Maple or Trident Red Maple, has similarly hairy but always 3-lobed leaves, the lower 2 lobes of which are somewhat compressed. Its leaves are more likely to turn yellow in the fall than those of the other varieties. It prefers drier sites than variety drummondii.

Red Maple is a handsome shade tree, named for its often red autumn leaf display. It has the greatest north-south distribution of all tree species along the East Coast, ranging from eastern Canada south to Florida and west to east Texas. Infrequent in forest; mostly found as understory. Very tolerant of most soils, but prefers slightly acid, moist conditions; tolerant of ozone and intermediately tolerant of sulphur dioxide. Not particularly urban tolerant, although planted in ever-increasing numbers in cities (Dirr 1998). Red maple is less reliably symmetrical than the hard maples.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Leaf Complexity: Palmate
Leaf Venation: Palmate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous , Hirsute
Leaf Margin: Serrate
Leaf Base: Cordate , Rounded
Leaf Texture: Smooth
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious
Size Notes: 50-100 ft. tall
Leaf: Green, turning red or yellow in fall
Autumn Foliage: yes
Flower: Flowers 2 mm long
Fruit: Red, Brown 1 to 1.5 inches
Size Class: 36-72 ft. , 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr
Bloom Notes: Male trees have decorative blooms


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Nf. to s. Ont., s. to FL & e. TX
Native Habitat: Moist soils along stream banks; moist to drier woodlands

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8) , Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: Low
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist, slightly acidic soils.
Conditions Comments: Though usually found in moist woodlands and wet swamps, also found in drier Post Oak woods.


Use Ornamental: A popular landscaping tree for its colorful fall foliage, smoky red male flowers in spring, and red samaras on female trees.
Use Wildlife: Browsed by deer and moose. Also used by squirrels and a variety of birds (Wasowski and Wasowski 1994). Maples are widely used by inchworms (Geometridae) and relied on by the Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda), the Oval-based Prominent (Peridea basitriens), the Retarded Dagger Moth (Acronicta rubicoma), the Orange-humped Maple Worm (Symmerista leucitys), the Maple Looper (Parallelia bistriaris), and the Baltimore Bomolocha (Bomolocha baltimoralis) (Tallamy 2009).
Use Other: Pioneers made ink and cinnamon-brown and black dyes from a bark extract.
Warning: Leaves and bark poisonous to livestock.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds
Larval Host: Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) specifically favors Red Maple. Several other moths lay their eggs on maples generally.
Deer Resistant: No

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Acer rubrum is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Rosy maple moth
(Dryocampa rubicunda)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2015-11-13