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Pros & Cons of Red Maple Trees

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Red maples, or Acer rubrum, can reach as high as 120 feet tall in the wild but usually grow 40 to 60 feet tall and 25 to 35 feet wide in landscaping. Its growth rate is medium to fast, according to Clemson University Cooperative Extension, at 10 to 12 feet in five to seven years. This species tends to live longer in wild, wet areas than in urban environments.

Flashy Colors

Red maples are well known for their intense, fire-colored red, orange and yellow fall leaves that change earlier and last longer than most deciduous species. Some red maples show only one color, while others display all three. Despite their spectacular fall colors, red maples are most known for their vibrant, dense clusters of red flowers in the spring. These flowers emerge in the late winter or early spring on the twigs and branches shortly before the leaves emerge.

Adaptable Shade Tree

While red maples thrive in wet areas of partial shade, they also do well in full sun and can tolerate moderate droughts. They can be successfully grown as a street-side or landscape plant and are prized for their ability to provide shade. The Freeman Maple, also known as Autumn Blaze, is a cross between the red and silver maple species. It is particularly known for its ability to grow quickly, grow well in diverse climatic and soil conditions and provide a long-lasting, vibrant fall leaf display.

Root Issues

The feeding roots of red maples are close to the surface, lending to a variety of problems. For instance, the roots can raise sidewalks in street plantings, and turf does not grow well around them in landscaped or wild areas. If grass does grow, any attempt to mow under a red maple has the potential to end up in disaster, both for the lawn mower and the tree. Red maple roots also tend to girdle, or circle, the trunk or root ball. If this occurs, they need to be carefully cut to prevent damage.

Prone To Damage and Disease

Red maple is a softwood species, and its wood is slightly brittle. The branches are structurally weaker than hardwood species, and its bark is thin, so they are both susceptible to storm and other physical damage. Most cultivars of red maple are not decay resistant, so once damage occurs, it is especially vulnerable to diseases that rot the wood, bacterial leaf scorch or insects like flathead borers, leafhoppers or twig borers.

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