Red maple, or acer rubrum, is an eastern North American deciduous tree known for its brilliant red autumn foliage. It is one of the first trees to change color.
Habitat & Range
The range of the red maple stretches from the east coast to the Mississippi River, and from New Foundland to Florida. In the North, it grows best in wet woods and bottomlands, and in the South, on dry upland areas. It likes bright sun to partial shade.
Size & Age
Red maples are fast-growing and can reach 40 feet to 90 feet tall and 150 years of age. Trunks grow up to 30 inches in diameter. The crown is rounded when mature and spans 25 feet to 40 feet in width.
The leaves, often triangular-shaped, are 3 inches to 6 inches wide with three to five lobes. They have shallow, sharp-angled clefts between the lobes and are coarsely serrated (with teeth). The leaf is shiny green on top and pale green underneath, and it turns orange-red to brilliant red in fall.
The seeds, called samaras, have two wings that aid them in wind dispersal and are reddish in color. The buds and twigs are also reddish.
Young trees have smooth, light grey bark, which darkens and forms crags and ridges with maturity. The bark of medium-sized trees sometimes has a distinctive concentric ring pattern.
The sap can be used to make maple syrup, though it's not as high quality as that of sugar maples. Its wood is used for inexpensive furniture, firewood and railroad ties.