The red maple, also known as the swamp maple or the scarlet maple, has bright red, orange and yellow leaves in the fall, making it one of the easiest identifiable trees. It does not produce sugar (maple syrup) in the quantities that the sugar maple produces, though it does produce some. Red maple wood is soft and is often used for clothes hangers, box veneer, interior finishes and clothespins.
Check the location of the tree you are identifying. The red maple grows in areas with moist soil, such as near riverbanks and in swamps. It grows in several types of soil, including acidic soil, as long as the soil is well-draining. Though not as common, it can be found in uplands and dry ridges, as long as the area gets enough rain or is watered frequently. It is found throughout the United States, except in the most northern portion of the Midwest.
Look at the size of the red maple. It grows up to 90 feet in height and has a rounded crown. The crown has leaf stalks and produces red flowers. Each leaf has three pointed lobes. The undersides have white hairs. The leaf color is dull green. The smooth bark is gray and thin while the tree is young, but as the tree matures, the bark thickens and develops shallow fissures. Even after the bark matures, it is easily damaged.
Look at the fruit of the red maple. The fruit appears just after the red flowers. Both fruit and flowers appear in early spring. In warmer climates, such as Florida, the tree leaves as early as January and February. The red fruit is 1 to 3 inches long and has a hard covering. It attracts birds and squirrels.