Red maples, which provide striking fall foliage, grow prolifically in Ohio. Their name is derived from their crimson-red autumn leaves, which remain on the trees well after leaves on many other species have fallen. Along with being good, attractive shade trees, red maples also provide a vital food source for wildlife in the Buckeye State. However, they have a tendency to experience growth problems in poor, compact soil, and their seed shedding can be a nuisance to property owners.
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 bottomlands, where soil is consistently wet, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. That is why the red maple is also called swamp maple. It is also known as a "cosmopolitan" species, because it grows well in a wide variety of environments.
Proliferation of red maples is easier than some other tree varieties. They 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 hardiness zones 3 to 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 red maple tree, making it a monoecious species, but trees exist that have only male or only female buds. Most modern kinds are females, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Size and Shape
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources state that , if growing in the open, red maples can reach up to 70 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Branching is upright and symmetrical when young, but becomes rounded with age as lower branches stretch more vertically.
Red maple wood is "close grained" but not extremely hard, 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 and crates, and as mine props and firewood.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says that 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 favored. But their buds generally break dormancy earlier in the spring, imparting a sour taste to the sap, according to the USDA Forest Service.