- Acer, from the Latin for maple
- rubrum, from the Latin, "red"
- Common Name, from bright red spring color
- Other common names include Scarlet Maple, Soft Maple, Swamp Maple,
Water Maple, Drummond's Red Maple, Rot-Ahorn (Ger)
- Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
- Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
- Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
- Subclass Rosidae, the Roses
- Order Sapindales
- Family Aceraceae, the Maples
- Taxonomic Serial Number: 28728
- Also known as Acer carolinianum, Rufacer carolinianum,
- Hybridizes naturally with Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
- A large native deciduous tree, 30'-90' tall.
- Leaves simple, opposite, and palmate, with triangular
lobes and doubly toothed edges; 2½"-4" long and nearly
- Surface unfolding reddish, gradually turning
to green; paler underneath. Veins retain reddish tint all summer.
- Leafstalk red
- Fall Collor yellow, orange, or scarlet red.
- Trunk relatively long and clear of branches and
up to 4' in diameter; crown oval and irregular, or rounded,
- Bark smooth and grey, darkening and becoming
furrowed in narrow ridges with age.
- Twigs stout and shiny red to grayish brown.
- Flowers small, fragrant clusters of red and orange
flowers hanging from the reddish twigs, borne in slender-stalked, drooping
- Fruit a paired, red, pink, or yellow, winged samara,
about ¾" long.
- For the most part, the only tree maple in the North Woods.
- Distinguished from Moose Maple (Acer
spicatum) by its tree form and size and its larger leaf. Moose
Maple is generally a multi-stemmed shrub with smaller leaves.
- One of the most widely distributed trees in eastern North America;
Newfoundland and Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin,
and Illinois; south through Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and southern
Texas; and east to southern Florida.
- Much of the deciduous forest of eastern North America and into the
fringes of the boreal forest, on a variety of wet to dry sites in dense
woods and openings.
- Grows in low, rich woods, along the margins of lakes, marshes, and
swamps, in wet thickets, and on floodplains and stream terraces.
- Dominant in many forest types. In much of the Northeast it grows as
an overstory dominant only in swamps and other wet sites.
- Soils a wider range of types, textures, moisture
regimes, and pH than any other North American tree. Best on moist, fertile,
loamy soils but also grows on dry, rocky, upland soils. Grows on soils
derived from a variety of materials, including granite, shales, slates,
gneisses, schists, sandstone, limestone, conlgomerates, and quartzites.
- Occupies a wide range of successional stages and is moderately tolerant
of shade in the North. Commonly grows as a subclimax or mid-successional
species. Lives longer than most successional species but generally does
not persist into later stages.
- Commonly increases after disturbances such as windthrow, or fire.
- In many locations, has increased since presettlement due to Dutch
Elm Disease, Chestnut Blight, oak decline, and Gypsy Moth infestations.
- Insects: Loopers, spanworms, the gallmaking maple
borer, maple callus borer, Columbian timber borer,and various scale
insects are common damaging agents.
- Disease: Butt rot, trunk rot fungi, heart rot, and
stem diseases common in damaged trees.
- Tolerant of water-logged soils and flooding; somewhat tolerant of
- Intolerant of fire; even large individuals can be killed by moderate
fires. Postfire mortality relatively high for saplings, but as bark
becomes thicker and more fire-resistant with age, mortality is much
- Sprouts vigorously from the root crown after aboveground vegetation
is killed by fire. Seedling establishment may also occur.
- Common on burned lands in boreal forests of northern Minnesota.
- Trees: Balsam Fir (Abies
balsamea), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), Paper
Birch (Betula papyrifera), Black
Ash (Fraxinus nigra), Red Pine
(Pinus resinosa), White Pine (Pinus
strobus), Quaking Aspen (Populus
tremuloides), Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Elm (Ulmus
- Shrubs: Moose Maple (Acer
spicatum), Green Alder (Alnus
crispa), Juneberries (Amelanchier
spp.), Sweet Fern (Comptonia
peregrina), Bunchberry (Cornus
canadensis), Round Leaf Dogwood (Cornus rugosa), Beaked
Hazel (Corylus cornuta),
Low Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla
lonicera), Wintergreen (Gaultheria
procumbens), Fly Honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis),
Dewberry (Rubus flagellaris), Bebb Willow (Salix
bebbiana), Late Low Blueberry (Vaccinium
- Herbs: Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia
nudicaulis), Large Leaf Aster (Aster
macrophyllus), Blue Bead Lily (Clintonia
borealis), Horsetails (Equisetum spp.), Jewelweed
(Impatiens biflora), Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum
canadense), Cow Wheat (Melampyrum
lineare), Interrupted Fern (Osmunda
claytonia), Bracken Fern (Pteridium
aquilinum), Shinleaf (Pyrola spp.), Rose Twisted Stalk
Starflower (Trientalis borealis),
Violets (Viola spp.)
- Ground Covers: Reindeer Mosses (Cladonia
spp.), Dicranum Mosses (Dicranum spp.), Hair Cap Moss (Polystrichum
commune), Bristly Club Moss (Lycopodium
annotinum), Running Club Moss (Lycopodium
clavatum), Ground Pine Clubmoss (Lycopodium
obscurum), Schreber's Feathermoss (Pleurozium
- Mammals: Browsed by white-tailed deer, moose, and
- During the last Ice Age retreated with other hardwoods to the relative
shelter of the lower Mississippi Valley, moving north after the pioneering
conifers as the ice sheets melted.
- First cultivated in 1656
- Sawtimber and pulpwood; the soft, close-grained, light brown wood
is also used for furniture, veneer, pallets, cabinetry, plywood, barrels,
crates, flooring, and railroad ties. Often poorly regarded as a timber
species due to susceptibility to defects and disease, and poor form
of individuals of sprout-clump origin.
- Can be used to make maple syrup, although Sugar Maple is much more
- Seed borne as early as 4 years of age. Produces good
or better seed crops over most of its range in 1 out of 2 years. Bumper
seed crops do occur. Trees 12" in diameter can produce nearly 1 million
seeds. Seed is wind dispersed.
- Germination: Up to 95% of viable seed germinates
in first 10 days; some seed survives in the duff and germinates
the following year.
- Seedling establishment: Seedbed requirements
minimal, and a bank of persistent seedlings often accumulates beneath
a forest canopy. Seedlings can survive 3-5 years of moderate shade.
- One of the first trees to flower in early spring, flowers appearing
several weeks before vegetative buds. Fruit matures in spring before
leaf development is complete.
- Vegetative regeneration: sprouts vigorously from
the stump, 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.
- Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
- Characterized by showy fruits and flowers and colorful fall foliage.
- Many cultivars are available.
- Cultivars and species available by mail order from specialty suppliers
or at local nurseries
Last updated on
4 March, 2006