The red maple (Acer rubrum) has what the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees" terms the greatest "north-south" range of all East Coast tree species. The tree grows from Newfoundland to South Florida in the wild and is a very common landscape and shade tree, providing autumn color. The red maple does have some problems that can adversely affect its growth and health.
Red maple grows to an average of 75 feet tall, with some individual trees approaching 100 feet in height. The red maple has leaves with three lobes, although some will have as many as five lobes. The foliage is from 2 to 6 inches long and the stems are normally red, a theme throughout the seasons with this species. The twigs in winter, the buds in spring and the flowers that emerge in March and April are red, and the leaves turn crimson to scarlet in autumn. Red maple bark varies in texture and color, with some being platy, shaggy or fissured and ranging from gray to brown.
While the red maple can and will grow in many soil conditions, you will get the best results when planting yours in damp acidic ground that gets full sun. The red maple is susceptible to defects and rotting when planted in poor quality soil. The tree will survive some flooding and wet areas. Red maple is a very easy tree to transplant.
Mowing near a red maple is a task that you must undertake with care, especially when the tree is young. Red maple roots are shallow and can become raised, making the area beneath the tree bumpy when you mow it. The bark of red maple is thin and when hit with a mechanical implement, the bark can damage. Once injured, the area can experience significant death of tissue and allow diseases and insects to access the tree to precipitate further troubles.
The United States Forest Service website notes that several insects will attack a red maple, but few can harm it by themselves unless the tree is already in a weakened state. The gallmaking maple borer, the Columbian timber beetle and the maple callus borer are common pests of the tree. Scale insects like the oystershell scale will feed on the leaves, as will the caterpillar stages of moths like the gypsy moth and the linden looper; the tent caterpillar, a bug capable of defoliating trees, refrains from eating the foliage of red maples.
The hybrids of red maple offer you an assortment of features. Autumn Flame has smaller leaves than most red maples and grows as high as 60 feet. Franksred has vivid red leaves in autumn, and the Bowhall has orange-yellow foliage with red streaks in the fall. For those in cold climates with tough winters, the Northwood cultivar can hold up in ice and snow.