Red maples, which provide some of the most striking fall foliage, grow prolifically in Ohio. Their name is derived from their crimson-red autumnal leaves, which remain on trees well after many others have fallen. Along with being good, attractive shade trees for people, red maples also provide a vital food source for wildlife in the Buckeye State.
Red maples, native to the eastern half of the United States, grow in all parts of Ohio, but are naturally found in swampy areas of open woodlands, and along creeks and bottom lands where soil is consistently wet, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which is why it is also called "swamp maple." But it is also known as a "cosmopolitan" species, growing comfortable in a wide variety of environments.
Proliferation is easier than some other tree varieties. Red maples grow well by seed and often sprout from stumps after trees are cut. Cornell University's Sugar Maple Research and Extension Program describes it as "extremely rapid-growing" in USDA Zones 3 through 9.
Maple keys, or samaras, are sometimes referred to as helicopters because of their winged shape that keeps them aloft longer as they drop from trees. Ohio homeowners recognize them as annual gutter cloggers. They are usually reddish in color and develop in the spring when many other fruits are not yet available for wildlife to eat. Male and female flowers often bud on the same tree, making it a monoecious species, but trees exist that have only male or female buds. Most modern kinds are females, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Size and Shape
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources states that if growing in the open, they can reach up to 70 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Branching is upright and symmetrical when young, but becoming rounded with age as lower branches stretch more vertically.
Red maple wood is "close grained," according to Cornell University's Sugar Maple Research and Extension Program, making it good wood to build inexpensive furniture. It is also used to make railroad ties, baskets, crates, mine props and firewood.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources states growth can be stunted if trees are planted in clay soils with a higher alkalinity. Yellowing leaves can be a sign of poor soil nutrition, and lots of surface roots can mean soil is too impermeable. Borer and Verticillium wilt are Ohio red maples' most common pest and disease issues.
Red maples can be tapped for sugar, although sugar maples are considered better for this use. But their buds generally break dormancy earlier in the spring, imparting a sour taste to the sap, according to the USDA Forest Service.