Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Acer rubrum, Red Maple

Red maple is one of the native maples to North America, with its native range well north of the Great Lakes and south to Florida and reaches west to the Mississippi save the region of central Illinois. Its adaptability to various soil types and moisture needs allows it to grow in a wide range of zones. According to Silvics manual if it is in a good location it can be a fast grower. It is a nice shade tree as well as being shade tolerant.

The Red maple goes by many other names- Carolina Red Maple, Drummond Red Maple, Scarlet Maple, soft maple, swamp maple and water maple. Given its wide range of habitat many common names have been given. Here is a good example of the need to use botanical names when discussing plant material.
An average tree grows to a height of 70 feet though some can grow to over 100 feet tall. It is a medium aged tree –not living more than about 150 years. The overall shape of the tree is pyramidal when young becoming more oval as it matures. The bark is smooth when the tree is young gradually developing ridges or scales. It is light gray to brown gray on mature trees.

One of the interesting features of this tree is its reproductive characteristics. It can be either dioecious or monoecious. If monoecious the male and female flowers occur on different branches.

The Missouri Plants web page shows a great example of the male and female flowers. The A. rubrum is apparent in the spring as one of the first flower buds to appear in the woods. The red stands out against the otherwise brown/gray limbs of the deciduous woodlands. This is the time that the vast number of Red maples really stands out. After the flowers the seed pods, samaras, form. On the Red maple these are most often red in color. The UCONN web site has some great photos of the samaras.

The leaves are one of the identifying characteristics of the Red maple and compare very closely to the Silver Maple, Acer saccharinum. While trying to gather photos and make some IDs of trees I was getting confused with these two. After reading through the Silvics manual I find that Red and Silver will hybridize naturally. One of the best sites to compare all the maples is the Vanderbilt site. From this site you can click on each maple individually. The Red maple leaf has more of a 'V' shaped notch between the lobes than others that are 'U' shaped. It has 3-5 lobes and the leaf is smooth with double-toothed margins. It is a light green with a whitish green on the underside. Its stem is usually red.
This is from one of my tree reference books. It helps me figure out what some of the differences by foliage. Tree Finder A Manual for the Identification of Trees by Their Leaves by May Watts

Fall color is especially grand with the Red Maple. It is one of its outstanding characteristics. The bold color ranges from orangey red to brilliant red in the fall.

This is not the primary tree that is used in syrup production but it does produce a sweet sap. Because it leafs out so much sooner than other maples it isn't used as much. Apparently the leaf production changes the flavor of the sap. Other uses for this tree include furniture though it is not as hard as other maples. The bark has a history of being used to take care of coughs and diarrhea, also a blood purifier.
Other good references include NCState and Virginia Tech.

Next week's tree is the Persian Ironwood.

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.


  1. I have only recently come appreciate the color of the spring flowers on this tree. It forms a sort of red haze on the tree, and I take it as a sign that winter is gone, and for that I welcome them.

  2. Thanks for posting about the Red Maple. It is one of my favorite trees. In the fall, I love to go for rides with my dog on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it is the most brillant and colorful tree. I always take lots of pictures! Love, Debbie

  3. I used to enjoy when the maples of neighbors at the top of the street sent little helicopter seeds down the hill, where we used to live.

    I saw a second year loblolly pine seedling yesterday and thought of your posts on pines. The seedling looked like Cousin It.

  4. It's a beautiful tree. I can always spot these by those red flowers. They are really standing out nicely this year.

  5. I spent a royal fortune on an Acer rubrum 'Variegata.' It looks great but did I really NEED it? Afraid not. Dang all these wonderful plants make a girl weak.

  6. Maples, Janet, such a wonderful family of trees. I wish we had planted more when we moved here 17 years ago for those planted have grown robustly and make for great shade.

    On the west side of our home and where the sun beats so hotly against the house in the summer, we lost several trees we planted because of the heat; finally we put in another maple 3 years ago... and it has not skipped a beat.

  7. It's amazing that 150 years in a medium aged tree. Also interesting to learn about why this wouldn't be used much in syrup production. A very beautiful tree!

  8. beautiful! There are a couple of really nice maples like this down the street from my house. Love the way they look in the fall.

    BTW, I just got around to answering your question about the FB page versus the networked apps on GardenBloggers.com

  9. Hi Les, I too have enjoyed its appearance this spring. I also think its fall color is stunning.

    Hi Debbie, it certainly makes the Skyline Drive gorgeous in the fall. I would take tons of pictures too.

    Hi NellJean, those little helicopters are part of my childhood memories. What fun. Glad you thought of my tree postings when you saw the seedling.

    Hi Tina, they are standing out big time!! Lots and lots of red flowers.

    Hi Grace, Variegated??? how cool. I would NEED one too.

    Hi Di, thanks for visiting! Sounds like your maples were happy and grew well. No time like the present to plant more. Hope the one you planted three years ago does well.

    Hi Catherine, I know --I thought that 150 years would be at least be a medium lived catagory.

    Hi Mr. Brown Thumb, I like them both fall and spring. They are a nice sized tree. btw- thanks for the reply. I asked another question of you.

  10. There's nothing like the fall color of a maple! Interesting that this one isn't native in central Illinois, though I suspect some homeowners have planted them. Thanks for the tip on the book--I've been looking for a good tree i.d. book for awhile.

  11. Hi Rose, I love the red color of the maple in the fall. ....seems to glow! I thought of you when I saw that central Illinois was void of a native range. Funny. The tree ID booklet is a good start. Peterson's tree books are good too, I don't have one, but want one. Also Sibley (sp?) has a book of trees that is good.

    Hi Sweetbay, I imagine your place is gorgeous in the fall----and spring and summer and winter. The variety of colors in the fall is just spectacular.

  12. I am truly delighted to read this web site posts which contains
    tons of helpful information, thanks for providing such statistics.

    Have a look at my blog post scott yancey review


If you use "Anonymous" please sign your name so I know who you are...there is a lot of spam out there. Thanks for visiting today. The Queen would be pleased if you left a comment...... :-D thanks! I do respond to your comments, you can click on the email followup comments to have it in your inbox.

I am now moderating all comments. Too much spam is coming through. Sorry folks.