How to identify a red maple tree

Red Maple | Acer rubrum

Trees of the Adirondacks:  The leaves of the Red Maple are coarsely toothed. Red Maple (Acer rubrum) on the Heron Marsh Trail at the Paul Smith's College VIC (5 October 2018).

Identification | Uses | Wildlife Value | Distribution | Habitat | Adirondack Tree List | References

The Red Maple (Acer rubrum) is a medium to large deciduous tree that flourishes in a variety of habitats in the Adirondack Mountains. It is one of the most abundant and widespread trees in eastern North America.

The Red Maple's common name reflects the fact that its flowers, fruits, leaf stalks, and autumn colors are red or reddish. This species is also known as Scarlet Maple, Swamp Maple, Soft Maple, Carolina Red Maple, and Water Maple. The Red Maple is the state tree of Rhode Island.

Identification of the Red Maple

Trees of the Adirondacks: Red Maple leaves have three distinctive lobes, all with sharply pointed teeth. The dips between the lobes are also pointy, forming a sharp “v”. Red Maple (Acer rubrum) on the Barnum Brook Trail (28 July 2012).

Red Maple trees have an erect, single trunk. This species grows 30 to 90 feet tall and up to 4 feet in diameter. Like other maples, the branches of Red Maples are opposite, meaning that the branches are directly across, or opposite, each from other. The twigs and buds of Red Maple trees are reddish.

Reds Maple leaves are simpleSimple Leaf: A leaf with a single undivided blade, as opposed to a compound leaf, which is one that is divided to the midrib, with distinct, expanded portions called leaflets., meaning that each leaf has a single blade. The leaves are oppositeOpposite Leaves: Leaves occurring in pairs at a node, with one leaf on either side of the stem. and lobed leaves.

  • Red Maple leaves generally have three major lobesLobe: A projection from an edge of a plant structure (such as a leaf), larger than a tooth. Lobed leaves are leaves with distinct protrusions, either rounded or pointed., sometimes with two additional smaller lobes near the base of the leaf. The tips of the lobes are narrowly pointed.
  • The notches or dips between the lobes are V-shaped.
  • The margins of the leaf are toothedToothed: Leaves which have a saw-toothed edge.. The teeth are coarse.
  • When mature, the leaves are dull green and smooth above, lighter green or silvery beneath and more or less hairy.

Trees of the Adirondacks: The bark of the Red Maple is smooth and light gray when the tree is young, becoming furrowed and scaly at maturity. Red Maple (Acer rubrum) on the Barnum Brook Trail (28 July 2012).

Like many other trees, the bark of Red Maples changes as the tree matures. This means that for Red Maple, as for many other trees, bark is not a particularly useful characteristic to rely on for distinguishing Red Maple from other trees, such as Sugar Maple, which have somewhat similar bark.

The bark of a young Red Maple is smooth. In color, it is usually light ash-gray, almost silver. As the tree ages, the texture and color of the bark changes. It darkens, and eventually vertical cracks develop.

On older and larger trees, the vertical cracks form multiple layers of long, vertical plates. The plate-like strips remain fastened in the center, but can occasionally curl outward on one or both ends.  

Red Maples can become infected by "target canker." This is a fungus which causes the bark to crack in concentric circles, forming bullseye-shaped raised plates that look like a target.

Keys to identifying the Red Maple and differentiating it from other maples include its leaves, bark, growth habit, and habitat.

  • The leaves of the Sugar Maple and the Red Maple have a similar shape. However, Red Maple leaves are coarsely toothed. The Sugar Maple, by contrast, has just a few pointed tips on each lobe. Also, the dips between the lobes of the Red Maple are pointy, forming a sharp "v," while those between the lobes of the Sugar Maple are u-shaped.
  • Although Red Maple, Striped Maple, and Mountain Maple all have toothed leaf margins, the shape of Red Maple leaves is different from those of the Striped Maple and Mountain Maple. Red Maple leaves are more deeply lobed than those of the Striped Maple and Mountain Maple.
  • The bark of the Red Maple contrasts with that of the Striped Maple, which is marked with distinctive stripes.
  • The growth habit of the Red Maple is similar to that of the Sugar Maple, but contrasts with that of both the Striped Maple and the Mountain Maple. Both of these latter species are much smaller. The Striped Maple is a small tree or large shrub, often divided into several branches from near the base, while the Mountain Maple is a shrubby tree.
  • Habitat is another clue distinguishing the Red Maple from the Sugar Maple. Red Maple trees are more tolerant of wet soil. A large, single-trunked maple tree growing near a marsh or other wetland is most likely to be a Red Maple.

Trees of the Adirondacks: The small pinkish to red flowers of the Red Maple add a rosy glow to mountain landscapes in the early spring. Heron Marsh and Saint Regis Mountain from the overlook on the Barnum Brook Trail (8 May 2019).

Red Maple is one of the first trees to flower in the spring, generally several weeks before the leaves appear. The flowers are small, with slender stalks, pink to red. Flowering occurs on all branches in the upper portion of the crown. In our area, Red Maples usually flower the first and second weeks in May.

The winged seeds (samarasSamara: A type of dry fruit where one seed is surrounded by papery tissue that helps carry the seed away from the tree as the wind blows. ) of the Red Maple are the smallest of all native maples, about 5/8-3/4 inches long. The samaras ripen in the spring, usually the first week of June in the Adirondacks.

This species is one of the early harbingers of autumn as it turns color well in advance of other eastern deciduous trees, especially when it is located in wet sites. The fiery colors of fall are typically a brilliant red.

Uses of the Red Maple

The wood of the Red Maple is not particularly desirable for lumber or veneer. Red Maple is known in the lumber industry as soft maple. The wood is close grained and resembles that of the Sugar Maple, but is softer in texture and has somewhat poorer machining qualities. The Red Maple is a popular landscaping tree for its brilliant fall foliage, smoky red male flowers in spring, and red samaras on female trees. 

The Red Maple was used by various native American tribes to make spoons, arrow heads, baskets, and bowls. Leaves of the Red Maple were frequently used in the Ojibwe bead work designs. Native Americans also used the sap to make sugar and syrup. The Iroquois dried, pounded, and sifted the bark to make into bread. The plant was also used for medicinal purposes. For instance, the Cherokee used an infusion for hives and boiled the inner bark with water as an eyewash. Pioneers reportedly made ink and cinnamon-brown and black dyes from a bark extract. 

Wildlife Value of the Red Maple

Birds of the Adirondacks: The Red Maple is a common tree species in the breeding habitat of Northern Parulas. Northern Parula at Hulls Falls Road (23 September 2019).

Red Maple leaves, twig, bark, and fruits provide a food source for numerous mammals, birds, and insects. However, Red Maple leaves are extremely toxic to horses and cattle. The species is not preferred by deer as a browse source, so in areas with heavy deer pressure, this species is over-abundant in forest regeneration. The Red Maple is a larval host for the Rosy Maple Moth. Red Squirrels use the cavities of older trees as nesting habitat.

A number of birds build nests in Red Maples, including American Redstarts, Black-backed Woodpeckers, and Downy Woodpeckers. Woodpeckers and other insectivorous songbirds often search for the many insects that feed on maples; these insects are especially important in feeding young nestlings. For instance, Red Maple stands are a preferred micro-habitat for foraging for Red-eyed Vireos. 

The Red Maple is a common tree species in the breeding habitat of a wide variety of birds, including:

  • Alder Flycatcher
  • Canada Warbler
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Northern Parula
  • Purple Finch
  • Veery
  • Wood Thrush
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Distribution of the Red Maple

Trees of the Adirondacks: Red Maple can be found in all counties in the Adirondack Park Blue Line. Red Maple (Acer rubrum) on the John Brown Farm Trails (27 September 2019).

Red Maple is one of the most abundant and widespread trees in eastern North America, occurring in a diverse array of ecological conditions. It grows from southern Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and southern Quebec to southern and southwestern Ontario, extreme southeastern Manitoba, and northern Minnesota; south to Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas; and east to Florida. The Red Maple is most common in New England, the Middle Atlantic States, upper Michigan, and northeast Wisconsin. It is rare farther west and south.

In New York State, Red Maples are present in most counties throughout the state. This species can be found in all counties in the Adirondack Park Blue Line.

Habitat of the Red Maple

The Red Maple can grow over a wide range of water table depths, soil depths, and soil textures. Red Maples grow in both dry soils and wet soils. Of all the broad-leaved trees present in the Adirondacks, Red Maple is the one best able to grow where its roots are submerged. It can even grow in bogs, although it will not thrive there.

In general, this tree is common in places where Sugar Maple is unable to dominate, especially in poorly drained, shallow, or sandy soils. Moderately shade-tolerant, Red Maple will grow almost anywhere except in dense shade. This species is usually categorized as a subclimax species.  

Red Maple can be found in a wide variety of ecological communities in the Adirondack Park:

  • Beech-Maple Mesic Forest
  • Black Spruce-Tamarack Bog
  • Floodplain Forest
  • Northern White Cedar Swamp
  • Pine-Northern Hardwood Forest
  • Red Maple-Tamarack Peat Swamp
  • Silver Maple-Ash Swamp
  • Spruce Flats
  • Successional Northern Hardwoods

In the Adirondacks, you can find individual Red Maple trees growing along virtually all of the trails covered here, in both Northern Hardwood Forests and Mixed Wood Forests.

  • For instance, in a Beech-Maple Mesic Forest, a northern hardwood forest with Sugar Maple and American Beech codominant, look for Red Maples scattered among Yellow Birch and Striped Maple.
  • Characteristic shrubs include Hobblebush and Alternate-leaved Dogwood, growing alongside Sugar Maple and American Beech saplings.
  • Characteristic wildflowers include Canada Mayflower, Common Wood Sorrel, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and Wild Sarsaparilla, as well as spring ephemerals such as Trout Lily.
  • Ferns that flourish in this habitat include Intermediate Wood Fern, Spinulose Woodfern, and Christmas Fern.
Adirondack Tree List


Michael Kudish. Adirondack Upland Flora: An Ecological Perspective (Saranac, New York: The Chauncy Press, 1992), pp. 54, 56-57, 169.

E. H. Ketchledge. Forests and Trees of the Adirondack High Peaks Region (Adirondack Mountain Club, 1996), pp. 139-143.

Edwin H. Ketledge, "The Maples of New York," New York State Conservationist, Volume 16, Number 5 (April-May 1962), pp. 31-32. Retrieved 21 September 2020.

New York Flora Association.  New York Flora Atlas. Common Red Maple. Acer rubrum L. var. rubrum.   Retrieved 8 March 2017.

United States Department of Agriculture. Forest Service. Silvics of North America. Red Maple. Retrieved 8 November 2019.

United States Department of Agriculture. The Plants Database. Red Maple. Acer rubrum L. var. rubrum. Retrieved 8 March 2017.

United States Department of Agriculture. Fire Effects Information System (FEIS). Species Reviews. Acer rubrum. Retrieved 8 March 2017.

New York State. Department of Environmental Conservation. New York Natural Heritage Program. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition (March 2014), pp. 119-120, 121-122, 125. Retrieved 17 October 2015.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022 Online Conservation Guide for Beech-Maple Mesic Forest. Retrieved 29 March 2022.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. Online Conservation Guide for Black Spruce-Tamarack Bog. Retrieved 29 March 2022.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. Online Conservation Guide for Floodplain Forest. Retrieved 29 March 2022.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. Online Conservation Guide for Northern White Cedar Swamp. Retrieved 29 March 2022.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. Online Conservation Guide for Pine-Northern Hardwood Forest. Retrieved 29 March 2022.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. Online Conservation Guide for Red Maple-Tamarack Peat Swamp. Retrieved 29 March 2022.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. Online Conservation Guide for Silver Maple-Ash Swamp. Retrieved 29 March 2022.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. Online Conservation Guide for Spruce Flats. Retrieved 29 March 2022.

iNaturalist. Red Maple. Acer rubrum. Retrieved 30 August 2021.

iNaturalist. Adirondack Park Observations. Red Maple. Acer rubrum. Retrieved 30 August 2021.

New York State. Adirondack Park Agency. Preliminary List of Species Native Within the Adirondack Park Listed Alphabetically by Scientific Name and Sorted by Habit. Volume 1. Updated 10.23.2006, p. 4. Retrieved 26 January 2017.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Native Plant Database. Retrieved 25 January 2015.

University of Wisconsin. Trees of Wisconsin. Acer rubrum. Retrieved 25 January 2015.

Online Encyclopedia of Life. Acer rubrum. Retrieved 25 January 2015.

University of Michigan. Native American Ethnobotany. A Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants. Red Maple. Acer rubrum L. Retrieved 8 March 2017.

Plants for a Future. Database. Retrieved 25 January 2015.

The Birds of North America. Purple Finch, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Alder Flycatcher, American Redstart, Veery, Hooded Warbler, Wood Thrush, Northern Parula, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Canada Warbler, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Downy Woodpecker. Subscription Web Site. Retrieved 26 January 2015.

Ellen Rathbone, "Adirondack Tree Identification 101," The Adirondack Almanack, 18 November 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2015.

Michael Wojtech.  Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast (University Press of New England, 2011), pp. 94-97.

George A. Petrides. A Field Guide to Eastern Trees (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), pp. 54-55, 203-204.

George A. Petrides. A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1958,1972), pp. 7, 96-97, 120-121.

Gil Nelson, Christopher J. Earle, and Richard Spellenberg. Trees of Eastern North America (Princeton : Princeton University Press), pp. 624-625.

C. Frank Brockman. Trees of North America (New York: St. Martin's Press), pp. 212-213.

Keith Rushforth and Charles Hollis. Field Guide to the Trees of North America (Washington, D. C., National Geographic, 2006), p. 202.

National Audubon Society. Field Guide to North American Trees (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), Plates 261, 366, 369, 495, 593, pp. 577-578.

Allen J. Coombes. Trees (New York: Dorling Kindersley, Inc., 1992), p. 100.

Trees of the Adirondack Mountains

How to Identify Maple Trees

Maple leaves

On this page: red maple, norway maple, sugar maple, silver maple, black maple

An excellent tree selector service [leave site] »

Identify your tree leaf [leave site] »

Maple tree culture and habits [leave site] »

Red Maple

Acer rubrum

Red maple leaves and bark

The red maple is usually a medium-sized tree with a moderate growth rate. The bark is smooth and light gray on young- and intermediate-aged stems, while mature bark is dark gray and rough. Crushed twigs do not emit a rank odor as does the silver maple. Twigs are reddish and have rounded, oblong, vegetative buds. Floral buds are globose and conspicuous, since they are borne in clusters. Lower branches tend to sweep upward.

The species makes an excellent suburban or rural landscape tree in acid soil regions of the state. Numerous cultivars are available and are marketed based on fall color and habit. This tree has an acid soil requirement and is intolerant of wounding. With red maples, manganese deficiencies are common in neutral to alkaline soils.
Leaves: The leaves of the Red Maple are very roughly toothed with 3-5 shallow lobes. Most of the Red Maple leaves are a light or a pale green to a whitish. During Autumn, leaves turn a bright red or an bright orange.
Twigs: Most Red Maple twigs appear to be slender and glossy. At first the twigs are green but later in the year they turn a red.
Fruit: The dioecious, red flowers are borne in dense clusters and appear in March or April before the leaves; the buds turn a deep red sometime before they open. Male trees can be planted if you do not want fruit. Fruits have wings spreading at narrow angles and ripen in May or June. The fruit consists of pairs of winged seeds, or keys, 1/2—1 inch in length on long, drooping stems. Fruit color ranges from red to green, becoming tan when mature.
Bark: On a young Red Maple the bark can be smooth and gray. On older trees, bark can appear to be darker and rougher with peeling flakes.
Other Important Facts: The Red Maple is found mostly in Pennsylvania. Most Red Maples grow to a length of about 50 feet high.

Norway Maple

More about Norway Maples [leave site]»
Acer plantanoids

Norway maple leaves and bark

The Norway maple was one of the most popular street trees in the United States in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It originated in Europe where it is native from Norway to Switzerland. It is hardy, retains its leaves longer than the native maples, and endures the smoke, dust, and drought of the city, though it is susceptible to verticillium wilt and girdling roots.

Leaves: The Norway Maples leaves are very different than those of the Red Maple. These leaves are 5 lobed and 4-7 inches wide. A milky sap pours from the stalk if it is broken. One characteristic by which it can always be distinguished is the presence of milky sap in the leaf stalks. If pressed or twisted, the leaf stalks always yield a few drops of milky sap. Foliage color is bright green above and shiny beneath, except for the horticultural color variants that include wine, golden, and variegated forms. Fall foliage color is yellow for the green-foliaged forms.
Twigs:The Norway Maples twigs are a reddish-brown. Buds grow on the ends of the twigs. Buds are large (1/4 inch) and red or greenish-red with two to three pairs of bud scales; they are a sure means of identification in the winter. Buds are rounded rather than acute-tipped.
Fruit: In early spring, the yellow to chartruse flowers are arranged in 3-inch diameter clusters along the twigs. Flowers are borne in April or May. This maple has the most attractive flowers of all maples. Flowers are showy since they bloom before the foliage emerges. Fruit has horizontally spreading wings that mature in September or October.
Bark: On young trees the bark can appear to be light brown and smooth. As the trees get older the bark gets darker and rougher. The grayish-black bark is furrowed with shallow, narrow ridges forming a regular diamond pattern.

Other Important Facts: The Norway Maple is imported from Europe. This tree, like the Red Maple, can also reach a height of 50 feet. It is not similar to other maples because of the larger leaves, milky sap and horizontal winged fruit. Leaf shape very similar to sugar maple but more ornate. A milky sap appears when the leaf is broken off of stem at the petiole. This sap is not found in sugar maple leaves and distinguishes the two species.

Sugar Maple

Acer saccharum

Sugar maple leaves and bark

The tree attains a height of more than 100 feet and a diameter of 3 feet or more. It is generally a slow-growing tree. In the open, sugar maples have a symmetrical crown. It is extensively planted as a shade tree, although it is urban intolerant and should not be used in tree lawns.

Leaves: are simple, 5 lobed with very few large teeth, which are about 4" wide. The sinuses (division between the lobes) are rounded. The leaves are also a bright green towards the top,andpale green down to the bottom.These leaves turn bright yellow, orange or red in the fall.
Twigs: are a reddish-brown and go to a light brown. The twigs are smooth (glabrous) and reddish-brown in color. The winter buds are smaller than Norway maple and sharp-pointed with six to 10 pairs of scales.
Fruit: The flowers are yellowish-green, on long stalks, and appear with the leaves in April. Male and female flower clusters appear on the same tree. The fruit, which ripens in September, consists of a two-winged key. The two wings are nearly parallel, about 1 inch in length.
Bark: gray brown, smooth on young trunks, older trunks fissured with long, and irregular flakes. Bark is variable in this species. It is usually thin, smooth and gray on young trees, becoming thicker, darker and deeply furrowed into vertical, occasionally scaly ridges.

The way to tell Red Maple and Sugar Maple apart is by the bark. The real difference is that the Red Maple has lighter and smoother bark then the Sugar Maple. Also the Red Maple has a bitter sap as compared to the Sugar Maple.

Silver Maple

Acer saccharinum (dasycarpum)

Silver maple leaves and bark

The silver or soft maple is most common on moist land and along streams. It attains heights of 100 feet or more and diameters over 3 feet. It usually has a short trunk which divides into a number of large, ascending limbs. These again subdivide, and small branches droop but turn upward at the tips. The silver maple grows rapidly and has widely been planted as a shade tree. The urban-tolerance of the silver maple makes it the longest-lived of the maples in urban settings.

The wood is soft, weak, even textured, rather brittle, easily worked, and decays readily when exposed to the elements.

Leaves Leaves are 3 to 6 inches long, opposite, simple, and palmately 5-lobed. Leaves are lobed more than half way to midrib. Margins are irregularly double-toothed. The leaf surfaces are glabrous, light green above and white to silvery below, giving it the common name "silver maple." Fall coloring is green to yellow-brown, and is not striking.
Twigs: The buds are rounded, red or reddish-brown, blunt-pointed, and generally like those of the red maple. Clusters of globose floral buds are also present on silver maple. Crushed twigs emit a rank odor.
Fruit: The flowers appear in February or March, before the leaves, in dense clusters and are of a greenish-yellow or reddish-yellow color. This may be the first native tree to flower, although the flowers are not showy. Fruits have divergent and curved wings that mature in May or June. It consists of a pair of winged seeds, or key, with wings 1—2 inches long on slender, flexible stems about an inch long. Fruit can be a litter problem, since they are borne in great numbers.
Bark The gray-brown bark is smooth on young trees, later developing irregular furrows with thin, gray, scaly plates.

Black Maple

Acer nigrum

Black maple leaves and bark

The black maple is a large, deciduous tree 60 to 80 ft in height with a dense, rounded crown and a straight trunk up to 4 ft in diameter. It is very similar to the sugar maple, with a few distinguishing characteristics: the leaves are usually palmately 3-lobed with hairy lower leaf surfaces, the leaf blades are thicker and characterisically drooping at the sides, twigs are orange-brown and the bark is almost black and more deeply furrowed.

Leaves: The leaves are simple, opposite, with a few coarse teeth along the margins, dark green on the upper surface and yellowish-green below. The fall color is yellow or brownish-yellow, sometimes red, but less so than the sugar maple. The 3 to 5-inch petioles often have leaf-like stipules at the base which obscure the lateral buds.
: Clusters of small, yellow flowers are produced in May at the base of newly-emerging leaves. The 0.5 to 1-inch-long winged fruits are produced in pairs. They mature and dry in late summer, sometimes separating when shed, leaving the hairy stalk on the tree.
Twigs: Winter buds are egg-shaped, with pointed tips and hairy, overlapping reddish-brown scales.
Bark: The bark of black maples is dark gray with deeply furrowed, irregular ridges. The bark is darker and more deeply furrowed than that of the sugar maple.

Red maple - beautiful at any time of the year. Cultivation, varieties, use in the landscape. Photo - Botanichka

Japanese maples with red foliage are widely known and loved by many gardeners. But, unfortunately, in the middle lane their wintering causes many problems. However, not only Japanese maples with burgundy foliage or varietal varieties of Norway maple are called red. There is another type of maple that has a botanical name - red maple. So far, it is not very common in landscape design, which is undeserved. After all, this tree is decorative all four seasons of the year, and at the same time it is completely winter-hardy. Let's learn more about red maple.

Red maple - attractive at any time of the year

Red maple - botanical reference

Red maple ( Acer rubrum ) is a deciduous tree from the Maple family, reaching a height of 9 to 28 meters in adulthood. The homeland of the plant is the United States of America, where it is widely distributed, and along with sugar maple is used to produce maple syrup.

Leaves palmate, serrated, palmately lobed, typical of maples, 5-10 cm long. In summer, their color is bright green with a grayish back, and they become bright red in autumn. Young red maples have a smooth light gray bark, and with age it begins to crack into separate plates, becoming dark gray, rough and furrowed. The tree is monoecious and on the same plant you can see both male and female flowers.

Flowering begins in March-April, with flowers appearing before leaves. The male flowers are bright red and have long stamens with yellow anthers that extend beyond the perianth. In female flowers of the same color, you can see a long stigma. From the female flowers, fruits later appear in the form of "helicopters" characteristic of maples, that is, lionfish 15-25 mm long. The root system of the plant is shallow and wide.

Red maple is able to adapt well to different growing conditions. In the wild, it can be found in mixed forests, both in swampy areas and on poor soils in arid areas. This tree is a long-liver, its life span is 100-200 years.

Red maple (Acer rubrum). © P.ponderosa

Red Maple Decorative

Red Maple's outstanding decorative characteristic is the red, crimson, orange or yellow color of the fall foliage. And a similar extravaganza of color can be observed for several weeks. At the same time, red maple is one of the first trees to color in autumn; it decorates the garden with its bright foliage for a long time. Sometimes on one tree you can see all possible shades of color - from bright red to yellow. But in varietal forms, the coloring is more uniform, and you can find variations only with a red or only with a yellow crown.

This maple is called red not in vain, because this species has red not only autumn leaves. In spring, young red maple foliage also has reddish hues. With the advent of summer, the leaves turn green, but their petioles remain red. Young lionfish (which set in spring before the leaves are fully developed and continue to mature until autumn) are also bright crimson. And even the kidneys of this maple are reddish!

Thus the red maple can be called the tree of the four seasons. In summer it is adorned with beautiful green leaves with deep lobes and a silvery gray underside with colorful red petioles and young lionfish.

Red maple leaves turn into a real kaleidoscope in autumn, combining combinations of burgundy, red, yellow and orange. And an additional decoration is “helicopter” seeds.

In winter, we observe an oval silhouette, reddish buds and rough bark of a noble shade. In addition, young maple shoots have a bright green olive color, and cultivars may also have reddish tones.

And even in spring the tree looks wonderful. The most remarkable decoration is bright red flowers, "burning" on bare branches, and reddish young leaves blooming.

In autumn, the green foliage of the red maple takes on vibrant hues. © Jim M. Hollister

Red Maple Varieties

Individual red maple varieties vary greatly in color and intensity. Varieties differ from the species plant mainly in that they are more evenly colored, but may also have different habits. Most modern cultivars turn bright crimson red in autumn, but some cultivars may have orange or yellow fall foliage. Also, varietal specimens are more compact and not as tall as species.

Note: Some varieties of red maple are classified as Freeman maple ( Acer freemanii ). This is a hybrid of red maple and silver maple ( A. rubrum X A. saccharinum ), which has absorbed the best features of both parents.

Autumn Blaze Maple ( Autumn Blaze ) is a Freeman maple, i.e. a hybrid of red and silver maple. The positive features that he inherited from his parents are the bright color of autumn foliage, a dense dense crown and a surprisingly high growth rate. This variety is one of the most popular red maple varieties with landscape designers. The variety is tall, will grow up to 20 meters. The crown is initially conical, later broadly oval.

Schlesingeri Maple ( Schlesingeri ) is distinguished by the fact that its young growths have a bright red-brown color and serve as a winter decoration of the site. A medium-sized tree, its height (adult) will approach 15 meters. The leaves are bright green, up to 12 cm long. The autumn color of this variety varies from orange-red to deep crimson with a purple hue. It is believed that the shade of its autumn foliage is one of the most beautiful varieties of red maple in the range.

Maple "Red Rocket" ( Red Rocket ) differs from other varieties in narrow pyramidal shape. At the same time, the crown is very dense, and the vertically directed branches have a silver-gray color of the bark. A tree grows to a height of about 10 (maximum 15) meters. Autumn coloration can change depending on the weather in autumn and can be bright yellow, orange, or purplish red. Tests have shown that this variety has the best winter hardiness among all varieties of red maple with a narrow pyramidal crown.

Celebration red maple ( Celebration ) is an interspecific hybrid of Freeman maple and sugar maple. In the first years of life, the tree grows very quickly. In shape, the leaf blade resembles a leaf of one of the parents - sugar maple, has a leathery surface. In summer, the foliage is bright green, and in autumn it acquires yellow-red hues. Another advantage of the variety is that it does not produce seeds. Medium-sized tree (15-18 m tall, 8-10 m wide) with a broad pyramidal crown.

Autumn Radiance Maple (Autumn Radiance) has foliage that turns bright autumn colors two to three weeks earlier than most other red maples. This prolongs the general decorative season of the tree. The height of this variety is up to 12 meters, the shape of the crown is rounded. The leaves are large dark green with five deep lobes. Autumn color is crimson-purple-red. This cultivar blooms and sets seeds very rarely, that is, it does not become a weed tree. Is fast growing.

Read also our article The best deciduous ornamental trees.

Autumn Blaze Maple. © blueiitwoSchlesingeri Maple. © Arb O'RetumAutumn Radiance Maple. © floraplanet

Caring for Red Maple

Red maples can grow well in full sun or partial shade, but in the latter case the fall color may not be as intense.

In terms of soil, this can be clay, sand or loam. The tree prefers slightly acidic or neutral soils and does not do well in alkaline conditions. Red maples grown in alkaline soil produce pale leaves and have poor growth. In addition, they do not tolerate salinity and too high acidity of the soil.

The soils can be drained, but the proximity of groundwater and temporary flooding will also tolerate red maple.

Although red maples prefer slightly moist soil, they also thrive in dry soils if watered regularly (slow and deep watering is ideal). To keep moisture in for a long time, a layer of organic mulch near the trunk will help. Ideally, the tree should receive a deep watering every week (either by irrigation or with natural rainfall), and the soil should not be allowed to dry out for long periods of time.

Maple usually does not need to be fertilized, but if necessary, a complex granular fertilizer applied in the spring is sufficient. If you use organic mulch (a layer of about 10 cm), then it will not only help the soil retain moisture, but also decompose, provide the tree with nutrients.

Species plant tolerates frosts down to -40 degrees. However, depending on the variety, the frost resistance of red maple may differ, and there are even southern varieties that do not winter at all in the middle lane. Therefore, when choosing a variety, you should find out the level of its frost resistance.

Red maple usually has little or no problems with pests and diseases. But still the tree is susceptible to verticillium wilt and can be affected by anthracnose and various spots. In some years, it can be affected by aphids or mites (crimson, gall, etc.).

Read also our article Raspberry, or sweet raspberry.

Red maple in landscaping. © knechts

Red maple in landscape design

Red maple is ideal for city conditions and is well suited as an avenue tree in parks and urban landscaping, especially in narrow streets and in residential areas, as the tree has a narrow crown.

In private gardens, red maple can be used as a specimen and focal point, eg on a lawn. Low-growing varieties with a narrow crown can be used as hedges along the fence. They also look good in front gardens. Red maples, especially their short and medium-sized varieties, are ideal for small gardens when you want a small but attractive tree that does not create too much shade.

And for areas with a high level of standing groundwater, red maple will be a real find, because the range of trees that endure waterlogging is very limited. Medium-sized conifers can be good neighbors for red maple, which will be an excellent green backdrop for its bright fall foliage.

When used in landscape design, it should be taken into account that red maple does not tolerate technical salt, which is used in winter in cities to sprinkle paths, and it also does not like soil compaction. Therefore, do not use it in places where the plant can get into such negative conditions.

Varieties of maple with photo


  • General description
  • Common types of maple

In all parks and public gardens people like to plant maples. They are considered symbols of autumn. During this period they are especially elegant in golden foliage. More than 150 species belong to the maple family. They grow all over the earth. In our country, according to climatic conditions, only 25 varieties are suitable. According to the ancient Chinese teachings of feng shui, maple is a family tree. Therefore, it is often used in landscape design of adjacent territories.

Variety of different colors of maples

General description

Maple is characterized by carved lobed foliage. It forms a lush crown, which is beautiful at any time of the year. In spring, the tree acquires a slightly pinkish hue, which changes to bright green by summer, and by autumn, maple pleases with orange and gold colors. There are both ordinary varieties and their decorative forms.

Maple well protects others from dust and bright sun, helps to reduce extraneous noise. This is due to the density of its crown, which can be pyramidal or spherical.

Maple blossoms are also remarkable. In the middle of spring, its inflorescences appear, which have an unusual shape in the form of airplanes. Most of the trees are quite large, about 25 meters in height, but this does not frighten the owners of adjacent territories. Many people like giant trees, which in the summer provide a good shade, you can hide from the heat in it. If the site does not allow, then you can stop at dwarf species, which, with the help of pruning, can acquire various unusual shapes.

Common maple species

Among the variety of maple species, the following varieties stand out:

  1. Manchurian maple. It has a spherical shape. The leaves are tripartite, which are attached by red petioles. In autumn, the top of the leaf changes color to yellow, and the bottom becomes pinkish.

    Manchurian Maple

  2. Far Eastern maple. This variety is similar to the Manchurian species, but the cold climate of our country is easily given to it, so there are no problems when growing with it.

    Far Eastern Maple

  3. Holly maple. The tree has a straight trunk with a lush and neat crown. The leaf has a clearly defined shape. Based on this species, many varieties have appeared that are distinguished by an interesting foliage color.

    Holly Maple

  4. Small-leaved maple. The tree has a dense crown. The foliage is similar to the holly species, but smaller. By autumn, it becomes yellow-orange.

    Small leaf maple

  5. Maple yellow. The tree is characterized by a yellowish-grayish bark and lobed leaves, pubescent from below with red villi. Foliage in autumn takes on a bright orange color, close to a reddish tint.

    Maple yellow

  6. Green maple. He has a variegated bark. It has an alternation of white stripes with green and gray. The large foliage is soft to the touch, the lobes are shallow. In autumn, the foliage takes on a lemon hue. It contrasts well with the bark.

    Green Maple

  7. River maple. It is grown both as a tree and a bush up to 3.5 meters. Autumn leaves are yellow-red. It is well planted as a hedge.

    River Maple

  8. Silver maple. The tree is tall, with an openwork crown. The foliage is as if cut, from which the tree acquires lightness and splendor.

    Silver Maple

  9. Bearded maple. This is a small dense shrub with a height of up to five meters. Has many stems. Perfectly formed with pruning and blooms wonderfully. By autumn it changes green foliage to orange, and in winter the tree is decorated with red-violet shoots.

    Bearded Maple

  10. Fan and Palm Maple. Low and graceful shrubs with curved trunks. Their crown is asymmetrical and tilted towards the light. Their terminal shoots branch horizontally. These trees, which meet the canons of the East, are loved by landscape designers.

    Fan and palm maple

  11. Maple 'Drummondii'. A tree with unusual foliage that has a white border. Because of this, it becomes motley and does not look like other species.

    Drummondii Maple

  12. Maple red. This species is notable in autumn, as it acquires a bright red color at this time. Against the background of other trees, it looks solemn, attracts the eye.

    Maple red

  13. Tatar maple. The second name is black maple, as the bark is black. It stands out well in winter against the backdrop of snow. During flowering, its pinkish inflorescences, collected in bunches, are interesting.

    Learn more