print Print

Red MapleAcer rubrum

  • Red Maple - Acer rubrum
  • Red Maple - Acer rubrum
  • Red Maple - Acer rubrum
  • Red Maple - Acer rubrum

Red maple is one of the best named of all trees, featuring something red in each of the seasons—buds in winter, flowers in spring, leafstalks in summer, and brilliant foliage in autumn. This pageant of color, along with the red maple's relatively fast growth and tolerance to a wide range of soils, makes it a widely planted favorite.

The natural range of red maple begins roughly at the eastern edge of the Great Plains north to Lake Superior, extending eastward to the Atlantic. But homeowners and urban foresters are growing this tree all across the United States.


Hardiness Zones

The red maple can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 3–9. View Map

Tree Type

This is a shade tree, featuring a spreading canopy capable of blocking sunlight.

Mature Size

The red maple grows to a height of 40–60' and a spread of around 40' at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium to Fast Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium to fast rate, with height increases of anywhere from 13" to more than 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The red maple grows in acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam, well-drained and clay soils. It prefers wet soil conditions but has slight drought tolerance.

Attributes

This tree:
  • Provides amazing fall color that is yellow to red.
  • Produces red (sometimes yellow) clusters of small flowers winter to spring.
  • Features simple, medium to dark green leaves 2–6" in length with 3 or 5 lobes and sinuses that are irregularly toothed.
  • Yields twin seeds bound at their tips to a long, drooping stems. The seeds ripen in late spring and have attached wings that are up to 1" in length.
  • Can grow in an oval, rounded, upright or erect shape.
  • Can be toxic to horses if dry, wilted leaves are consumed.

Wildlife Value

The fruits (samaras) provide food for squirrels and many other rodents. Rabbits and deer eat the tender shoots and leaves of red maples.

History/Lore

The Red Maple has many claims to fame, including the greatest north–south range of any tree species living entirely in the eastern forests (Newfoundland to southern Florida).

It is also the state tree of Rhode Island. No one seems to know the whole story of why it was selected by the citizens of this smallest of states. In the 1890s, a Rhode Island school commissioner gave students a list of trees and asked them to vote on their favorite. Red Maple won, but it was not officially adopted as the state tree until 1964—making Rhode Island one of last states in the nation to proclaim its tree. The selection may have been because Rhode Island is from the Dutch, meaning "red island." Since the state bird is the Rhode Island red hen, it makes sense that the tree would be one noted for this color.

The nation's largest Red Maple lies far to the south of Rhode Island in Great Smokey Mountains National Park. This tree was declared champion in 1997 by American Forests and is listed in the National Register of Big Trees as being 141' tall and just over 7' in diameter at 4½' above ground.