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Wasowski, Sally and Andy
Acer rubrum L.
Red maple, Scarlet maple
USDA Symbol: acru
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
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.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: 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:
, Dioecious Size Notes:
50-100 ft. tall Leaf:
Green, turning red or yellow in fall Autumn Foliage:
Flowers 2 mm long
Red, Brown 1 to 1.5 inches Size Class:
36-72 ft. , 72-100 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Red
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr
Bloom Notes: Male trees have decorative blooms
, WV Canada: NB
, QC Native Distribution:
Nf. to s. Ont., s. to FL
& e. TX Native Habitat:
Moist soils along stream banks; moist to drier woodlands
Growing ConditionsWater 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.
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
Leaves and bark
poisonous to livestock. Conspicuous Flowers:
Birds Larval Host:
Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia
) specifically favors Red Maple. Several other moths lay their eggs on maples generally. Deer Resistant:
Seeds mature in early summer and will germinate without pretreatment although treatment will hasten and unify germination. Softwood cuttings root readily with hormone. Seed Collection:
As soon as samaras turn yellowish or reddish brown and the seeds inside are firm, filled out, and dark brown. Best to gather from the tree
as seeds that have already dropped lose viability quickly and are easily infested. Seed is usually not extracted from the samara. Keep in cold, moist storage. Seed Treatment:
Stratify 60-75 days at 41 degrees or use a cold water soak for 2-5 days. Commercially Avail:
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Attracting butterflies in Tennessee
July 03, 2009
What flowers and plants do the caterpillars in Tennessee eat? And do you know what butterflies live in Tipton Co. Tennessee?
view the full question and answer
Are black walnut and sugar maple poisonous to alpacas
June 09, 2008
I have alpacas and wonder if black walnut or sugar maple are poisonous to them.
view the full question and answer
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Bibref 1255 - Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants
(2009) Tallamy, Douglas W.
Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America
(2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides)
(1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition)
(2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 481 - How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest: Revised and Updated Edition
(2001) Nokes, J.
Bibref 980 - Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses
(1998) Dirr, M. A.
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants
(2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region
(2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 281 - Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas
(1999) Diggs, G. M.; B. L. Lipscomb; B. O'Kennon; W. F...
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Record Last Modified: 2013-09-06
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG