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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)

          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.


          From the Image Gallery

          78 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
          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 , 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 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

          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

          Status: FAC FAC FAC FAC FAC FAC
          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
          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: 2015-11-13
          Research By: TWC Staff, GDG

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