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Acer rubrum (Red maple)
Cressler, Alan

Acer rubrum

Acer rubrum L.

Red Maple, Scarlet Maple, Soft Maple

Aceraceae (Maple Family)


USDA Symbol: acru

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Medium to 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 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.


From the Image Gallery

69 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

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
Fruit Type: Samara
Size Notes: Up to about 100 feet 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

Bloom Information

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


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
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 retardata), 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

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Honey Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Rosy maple moth
(Dryocampa rubicunda)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: 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: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

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.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
Natural Biodiversity - Johnstown, PA
First United Methodist Church of Jefferson City - Jefferson City, TN
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


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 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
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...

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Acer rubrum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Acer rubrum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Acer rubrum


Record Modified: 2022-09-15
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG

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