Red Maple

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
The red maple, true to its name, produces fabulous red flowers, seeds, and foliage. The flowers appear first, in early spring, and the leaves turn bright red in late summer, before most other deciduous trees. Currently, the red maple has no leaves, however, we expect some lovely red foliage to appear as the weather warms. Some distinctive features of the tree: its roots are exposed and form a wide, circular base, some branches appear to be cut off, and it looks as though there are fungi in the holes.
Mila Colizza and Serena Thaw-Poon
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Rounded oval
Date of tree entry: 
10.10 m
Diameter at breast height: 
1.70 m

There are too many multiple trunks to accurately measure the DBH, so this is just an estimate
The bark of the tree is currently smooth, with a lighter color and some knots. As the tree ages, the bark color will darken and plates will form.
Twigs & branches
The twigs of the red maple, much like its name, have a slight red tinge as well as distinct lenticels. In addition, in the pictures above, some small red-tinted buds can be observed with small scales.
The foliage of the red maple is what gives it its name. While in spring the leaves are light green on top and almost white underneath, they turn either a brilliant red or orange in the fall. The leaves themselves are lobed palmates, with particularly 5 lobes and serrated edges. Red maples look quite similar to their close relatives, sugar maples, but can be distinguished as red maple have more rough serration.
Reproductive Structures
The flowers of the red maple are red, true to its name, and they hang in small clusters. The flowers appear very early in the spring in March or April, before the leaves even return. The red maple flowers are usually imperfect, so they have separate male and female flowers, which can be found either on one tree on separate branches or on entirely separate trees. The female flower produces the fruit.
Red maples produce double samaras, which consist of two seeds joined in a V shape, with two wings extending from them. The seeds are shaped so that they can be carried and dispersed by the wind. Like the flowers, the samaras of the red maple are red. They also fall early in the season, before the leaves are fully developed.
  • 4/10/21
Natural range of distribution: 
The red maple prefers moist soil in areas such as swamps, stream banks, and woodlands. However, it can also survive in drier conditions such as among rocks and sand. It can tolerate a lot of conditions—including varying pH levels and minor drought conditions—so they are very widespread, covering the entire eastern half of North America. Image from USA-NPN Mainly eastern North America
Origin, history, and uses: 

The main use of the red maple in the 21st century is as an ornamental plant for its attractive foliage and its modest size. However, lawn decoration was not always its main use. Native Americans had several medicinal uses for red maple including as an analgesic. The inner bark can also be brewed as a tea, which may have been used as a treatment for diarrhea or dysentery. The inner bark can also produce a purplish, brown, or black dye. Historically, iron or lead sulphate was added to the dye to produce ink.
The US Department of Agriculture notes that the red maple is valuable as a riparian buffer to hold back stream overflow and prevent erosion. It is also a valuable source of food for some forest animals. The species is important for bee populations, especially due to its early bloom.
Red maples produce low-quality timber, so they are not often used in the production of lumber. Their wood is white and fine-grained and is therefore sometimes used in decorative objects such as handles, bowls, etc. Although like other maples it can be used for syrup production, the red maple buds early in the season, so the window for harvesting its sap is much narrower.

Depending on the latitude or elevation of the red maple tree, flowers will begin appearing from late winter to early spring, often before the leaves, making it one of the earliest bloomers in the East. Red maple flowers are normally unisexual, while the tree itself can be monoecious or dioecious, and they are typically pollinated by bees. The fruit, which is a samara, will become ripe during the spring for town months during April, May, and the beginning of June. For one to two weeks from April to July, seeds that have reached maturity will become dispersed.
Other information of interest: 

Fun facts!
- The red maple has few natural pests, but the Asian long-horned beetle poses a serious threat.
- Red maple samaras are the smallest of all the native maples, at only ⅝ to ¾ inches.
- The red maple is classified as a “supergeneralist,” which means that of North American trees, it inhabits the greatest range of environments possible. It makes a good frontier tree and is projected to grow in abundance and dominate the forests of North America.
- Red maples tend to thrive in areas disrupted by human activities.
- It can change from being hermaphroditic to male or female, or from male to female.
- Red maple leaves are extremely toxic to horses, unclear as to the reason.
- Males are more likely to have red foliage in the fall, while females are more likely to have orange foliage.

Media and Arts

 Multimedia art by Mila Colizza.