Red Maple (Rubrum)

The Red Maple (Rubrum) is generally described as a perennial tree. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Red Maple (Rubrum) has green foliage and inconspicuous red flowers, with an abuncance of conspicuous red fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until spring. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Red Maple (Rubrum) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Red Maple (Rubrum) will reach up to 65 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 35 feet.

The Red Maple (Rubrum) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -47°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Red maple has long been valued as an ornamental tree (shade, specimen, autumn accent, or wet site) because of its ease of establishment, rapid growth, brightly colored flowers and fruit, and fall leaf colors (ranging from clear yellow to orange to vivid red) displaying coloring during different seasons of the year. This tree is preferred over silver maple or boxelder when a fast growing maple is needed. Red maple can be planted onto many types of disturbed sites in rehabilitation projects. The white, fine-grained wood is used for furniture, flooring, cabinetry, paneling, veneer, musical instruments, tool handles, cutting boards, butcher blocks, wooden bowls, boxes and crates, and many other uses. Red maple is an excellent wood for fuel and is also used for saw timber and pulpwood. But because of susceptibility to defects and disease and poor form of individuals of sprout-clump origin, the timber is often low in quality.

The sap of red maple is sometimes used for producing maple syrup. Although its sap has only about half the sugar content as sugar maple (A. saccharum), the syrup tastes good. Saponins in the sap may cause excessive frothing of the concentrate.

Native Americans used red maple bark as an analgesic, wash for inflamed eyes and cataracts, and as a remedy for hives and muscular aches. Tea brewed from the inner bark has been used for treating coughs and diarrhea. Pioneers made cinnamon-brown and black dyes from a bark extract. Iron sulphate was added to the tannin from red maple bark to make ink.

Because of the abundance and wide distribution red maple, its early-produced pollen may be important to the biology of bees and other pollen-dependent insects. Most references describe red maple as wind pollinated, but insect pollination may be important, as many insects, especially bees, visit the flowers. The seeds, buds and flowers are eaten by various wildlife species. Squirrels and chipmunks store the seeds. White-tailed deer, moose, elk browse red maple, and rabbits, which find the stump sprouts especially palatable, especially in fall and winter. Cavities in red maples in river floodplain communities are often well suited for cavity nesters such as the wood duck and others.

General Characteristics

General: Maple Family (Aceraceae). A native tree growing to 20 m tall, usually with a narrow compact crown, single-boled, or often in clumps of stems from one stump due to prolific sprouting; bark gray and thin, becoming furrowed into long narrow scaly ridges on older trunks and branches. The leaves are deciduous, opposite, long-petioled, blades 6-10 cm long and usually about as wide, with 3 shallow short-pointed lobes, sometimes with two smaller lobes near the base, dull green and smooth above, lighter green or silvery beneath and more or less hairy. The flowers are pink to dark red, about 3 mm long, the male (staminate) flowers fascicled and the female (pistillate) flowers in drooping racemes. The flowers appear to be bisexual but they are functionally male or female, and individual trees may be all male or all female or some trees may have both types, each type on a separate branch (the species technically polygamo-dioecious), or the flowers may be functionally bisexual. Fruits: winged nutlets (samaras) in a pair, 2-2.5 cm long, clustered on long stalks, red to red-brown. The common name is in reference to the red twigs, buds, flowers, and fall leaves.

Variation within the species: Red maple is highly variable and many varieties and forms have been identified. The following varieties are commonly recognized:

Var. drummondii (Hook. & Arn. ex Nutt.) Sarg. Var. trilobum Torr. & Gray ex K. Koch

Red maple forms natural hybrids with silver maple (A. saccharinum): Acer X freemanii E. Murray.

Required Growing Conditions

Red maple is one of the most widely distributed trees in eastern North America, extending from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, then south through Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and southern Texas, and east to southern Florida. Its distribution has been increased past its native range through broad cultivation and naturalization of the cultivated forms.

Adaptation Red maple is also one of the most successful and abundant species in the Eastern Deciduous Forest, arguably the most abundant, reproducing aggressively by seeds and sprouts after fire, logging, and abandonment of farmland. It is most abundant on bottomlands and is tolerant of waterlogged soils and flooding, but it is a “supergeneralist,” growing on the widest variety of sites and in the greatest range of conditions (sunny or shady, high or low nutrients, dry or moist) of any North American species, from 0-900 meters. Because red maple grows well in shade, is a key late-successional species, but it also is a successful early successional invader of disturbed sites. “It will probably continue to increase in dominance in the overstory during the next century, causing widespread replacement of the historically dominant trees of the forests of the eastern United States” (Abrams 1998, p. 355). Fire suppression has contributed greatly to the spread of red maple (the thin bark makes it highly susceptible to fire damage) but no single trait is responsible for its success.

Flowering: (February-)March-April, before the vegetative buds, one of the first trees to flower in the spring; fruiting: April-June, before leaf development is complete.

Cultivation and Care

Red maple is a prolific seed producer and trees as young as four years may begin to bear seeds. Good seed crops are usually produced in alternate years. Seedbed requirements are minimal and up to 95% of viable seeds germinate in the first 10 days; some survive in the duff and germinate the following year. Because the mature seeds are dispersed in spring and can germinate immediately, seedlings can become established with a 3-4 month advantage over most associated woody species. A bank of persistent seedlings often accumulates beneath a forest canopy.

Seedlings can survive 3-5 years of moderate shade, but establishment and early growth are best after disturbance. Male (staminate) trees may grow faster than female ones. Average longevity for red maple is about 80-100 years, but trees are known to reach 200 years of age.

Vegetative reproduction under natural conditions is common from sprouts from the stump or root crown or root suckers after fire or mechanical damage. Buds located at the base of stems commonly sprout 2-6 weeks after the stem is cut.


This species has been introduced in many areas of the U.S., outside of its native range.

General Upkeep and Control

Red maple is easily transplanted and is one of the easiest trees to grow. It is abundantly available in commerce in ball-and-burlap and in container, but where other fertile trees grow in the area, volunteers usually are common. Propagation of ACSA2.PG (silver maple)","Despite its usefulness in urban plantings, especially on poor sites, silver maple has significant limitations and is now not so commonly planted. It has been over-planted. It often grows to a larger size than anticipated and the brittle branches are easily broken in winter storms and wind storms. Pruning is often required to develop good form and to remove broken branches and old, multi-trunk trees often require cabling. Relatively soft wood renders silver maple susceptible to a number of wood rotting fungi and it is susceptible to various leaf molds and wilts (e.g., anthracnose, verticillium wilt, leaf spot, tar spot). Its large, vigorous, shallow-rooted root system can damage sidewalks and driveways, clog drain pipes, and penetrate septic systems and sewer pipes. Silver maple is susceptible to fire damage because of its thin bark, soft wood, and shallow/surface roots; surface fires kill seedlings and saplings and wound larger trees, exacerbating the tendency to rot. Prescribed fire is not recommended where silver maple is a desirable species. Silver maple can be managed on good sites for saw timber and on poor or wet sites for pulp or cordwood.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Tree
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 65
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Red
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Spring
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -47
Soil Depth for Roots 30
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4–7.4 pH
Precipitation Range 18–18 inches/yr
Planting Density 170–1200 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 30
Minimum Frost-Free Days 100 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA