Acer rubrum Red Maple

General

Red maple is one of the most successful and abundant trees in the Northeastern United States. Red maple is a valuable riparian buffer plant due to its tolerance of wetter soils, but is also found growing on a wide variety of sites: sunny or shady, dry or moist.  Because of its abundance and wide distribution, the early-produced pollen of red maple may be important to bees and other pollen-dependent insects. The seeds, buds and flowers are eaten by various wildlife species. Squirrels and chipmunks store the seeds, and white-tailed deer, rabbits and moose use it for browse. Cavities in red maples in river floodplain communities are often well suited for cavity-nesting species, like the wood duck and others. Individual plants can be male, female or bisexual. And within bisexual plants individual branches may exhibit flowers that are entirely male, female or bisexual. The early spring flowers are pink to dark red. Overall, a fast-growing species that transplants successfully while young.

Plant Description

A tall deciduous tree, normally 60 to 80 ft, occasionally up to or over 100 ft. Leaves opposite, and palmately lobed. Twigs usually reddish, flowers appear before leaves. Terminal (central) leaf lobe is “less to slightly more” than half the length of the entire leaf blade, and the base of the terminal (central) lobe is the widest part of the terminal (central) lobe. Sinuses at the base of each lobe a distinct “V” shape, not “U” shape.

Height (ft)
60-80 (to 100)

Spread (ft)
30-40

Soil moisture
Highly variable from swamps/peat bogs up to dry ridges, but prefers moist, well-drained soils

Soil types
Tolerates a wide range of soil types, and all textures (fine/medium/coarse).

Wetland indicator
FAC

Shade tolerance
Full Sun-Part Shade

Bloom color
Red

Bloom period
Early spring

Fall conspicuous
Yes (red to orange)

Anaerobic tolerance
Medium

Drought tolerance
Medium

Salinity tolerance
None

Mono/dioecious
Polygamodioecious (Having bisexual and male flowers on some plants, and bisexual and female flowers on others.)

Distribution

Commonly found throughout New England, and is, perhaps, the most abundant and widespread tree in the Northeast. The -40°F isotherm in southeast Canada is the northern limit of Red Maple’s range.

Additional information

Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2015. North American Plant Atlas. (http://bonap.net/napa). Chapel Hill, N.C. [maps generated from Kartesz, J.T. 2015. Floristic Synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press) LINK

Brooks, Henry and Dame, Lorin L. Handbook of the Trees of New England. Ginn & Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 1901. LINK

Fergus, Charles. Trees of New England: A Natural History. Morris Book Publishing, LLC. Guilford, Connecticut. 2005. LINK

Grimm, William Carey. The Illustrated Book of Trees. Revised by John Kartesz. Stackpole Books, Pennsylvania. 2002. LINK

Peattie, Donald Culross. A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America. Bonanza Books, New York. 1948. LINK

Sternberg, Guy and Wilson, Jim. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Timber Press, Oregon. 2004. LINK

USDA, NRCS. 2021. PLANTS Database (https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov/, 08/20/2021). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. LINK