The red maple (Acer rubrum) is the species of tree along America's East Coast that enjoys the widest North to South distribution. The red maple grows as far to the North as southern portions of Ontario and as far to the South as the very tip of the Florida Peninsula. Red Maple's western border continues well into the Midwest. The red maple is an ornamental tree you can put next to ponds, streams or swampy wetlands, as one of its nicknames is the Swamp Maple.
Recognize the red maple from the color of its buds, twigs, flowers and autumn leaves-red. Look for red twigs and buds in the winter months and its clusters of red flowers in late winter or early spring. Notice the flowers develop before the leaves do. Observe the leaves when they grow in and note the dull green above on the leaf and the silver-whitish undersides. Discern that the petioles, or stems, are red as well. Watch in the fall as the leaves turn different shades of red, with some going to orange and even yellow in the wild.
Some red maples growing in the perfect setting will get to be as tall as 120 feet, according to the Floridata website, but the average red maple is much smaller, about 40 to 50 feet high. The trunk may be as wide as 2 1/2 feet on the smaller trees and possess a 5-foot diameter on the much larger specimens. The leaves are from 2 to 4 inches long and have three or five distinct lobes.
Growing Red Maples
Plant a red maple where the ground is moist and the soil rich and acidic for the best growing conditions for your tree. Placing it near water will help the tree and enhance the beauty of the property, especially when the water reflects the red leaves in the fall. Choose a spot with full to partial sun for the tree and if you transplant the red maple, never put it in clay soil with a high alkaline content. Doing so will precipitate a calcium deficiency, states the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website, and stress the tree. Avoid this since it will stunt your red maple's growth and yellow its leaves, causing the tree to be susceptible to ailments such as verticillium wilt.
Remember that the bark of a red maple is somewhat thin and this makes it easily damaged by a lawnmower bumping into it or the strings from a weed-whacker. Mulch around the base in a large enough radius so no weeds or grass grow around it and you will never have to get close to it with any machinery. Keep red maples far enough away from your home to avoid any problems from falling limbs, as they often will break off in ice storms due to the tree having weak wood.
Elect to purchase the Autumn Flame cultivar of red maple if you want fall colors that will live up to the tree's name. Choose the Bowhall hybrid for yellow-orange leaves in autumn or the Franksred for a tree that has a rounded form, brilliant red autumn foliage and grows to 50 feet tall. Opt for Northwood if you reside in a northerly location subject to harsh winters, as this cultivar is hardy and able to withstand such temperatures.