Red Maple

Acer rubrum - Red Maple, Swamp Maple

Family - Aceraceae

Size - Medium to fast grower to 40' to 50' in the landscape with a spread slightly less than height. Loose, open, rounded crown. Pyramidal in youth.

Foliage - Opposite, simple, generally 3 lobed. Medium to dark green above, paler beneath with hairy veins. Petioles are distinctly red. Stems become red as winter advances. Fall color can vary and is not consistent through seedlings but is generally a varying intensity of red. I've seen some that have almost no color while others are even orangish-red. You won't ever know how good the fall color of a Red Maple seedling will actually be until you've had the opportunity to observe it. There is just too much variability.

Flower/Fruit/Seed - Flowers are 1/8" long and red, ocurring in clusters along the twigs. It flowers particularly early in the spring and is very distinct in appearance. From a distance the tree can appear as if in a red haze.

Bark - Smooth, gray, especially when young. Becomes fissured into ridges as it ages.

Pests and Diseases - None noticed in particular. Tends to have sharp crotch angles which over time can lead to potential structural problems and weaknesses. Wood is somewhat brittle and weak but not as much so as Silver Maple. Prone to frost cracks on the lower trunk when young.

Landscape Use - Very versatile and used heavily in the industry, particularly the cultivars. Is adaptable to many different conditions, tolerant of poor soils but will get chlorotic on high pH soils, manganese deficiency and not iron is the problem. Native habitat is low wet areas such as streambanks and swamps but it can also be found on upland ridges.

Performance - 9 Cultivars such as 'October Glory', 'Red Sunset', etc. are generally the request of the trade as they usually have some superior characteristics, ie; compactness, fall color intensity, or time period of fall color. Seedling Red Maples can vary greatly from one region of the country to another. A seedling Red Maple in Alabama is not the same as a seedling Red Maple in Michigan. There can exist numerous differences in hardiness, heat tolerance and other characteristics from one region to another so it's best to rely on locally grown seedling material for your own area. Red Maple has the largest north to south distribution of all tree species on the east coast.