The red maple (Acer rubrum) is an ornamental tree species in addition to being a common maple in the wild across most of the eastern United States and Canada. While the tree has brilliant fall color and has value as a shade tree, it suffers from certain liabilities. Among these are diseases as well as various other problems that are considered negative aspects of the species.
Many maples, including the red maple, tend to develop a disease called tar spot. This is an ailment precipitated by fungus, with two fungus species capable of bringing about the symptoms. Tar spot can produce a black area to form on a leaf, or it can cause a series of smaller black areas on the leaf's surface. Luckily for the red maple, the disease typically occurs late in the growing season, which means it has little effect on the health of the tree. The leaves become unsightly, with those affected the most sometimes falling off prematurely.
Red maple's wood is relatively weak compared to that of other hardwoods, notes the University of Connecticut Plant Database website. That makes it prone to damage from high winds, ice storms and other weather that can rip branches from the tree. It is imperative to position a red maple where a falling branch cannot harm a vehicle or structure. Also, red maples that develop in poor soil have a tendency to have internal defects in the trunk and larger branches.
Vulnerability to Wildlife
Another negative aspect of red maples is that different types of wildlife can damage the trees, with the seedlings especially vulnerable to deer. The U.S. Forest Service's website states that high deer populations can suppress the growth of red maples by nibbling on the leaves and twigs of the younger trees. Even the snowshoe hare can hurt the red maple when it chews on its bark. The sapsucker bird bores holes in a red maple while looking for insects and sap; that process actually can cause the tree to perish over time.
A disease brought about by the red maple not having the ability to garner certain nutrients from soil is chlorosis. This occurs when a red maple grows in alkaline soil. Chlorosis results in leaves having a yellow color, making the red maple appear unhealthy. Minerals such as manganese and iron can bind nutrients in the soil, keeping the tree from absorbing them properly.
Caution must be exercised when mowing around a red maple seedling because the lawnmower can injure the tree. After a red maple is hit by a lawnmower or other device at its base, the area around the wound can die back, and it is difficult to close the wound effectively with dressings. The injured tree is then at the mercy of various ailments that can access to it through the wound opening.