Red maple is a widely adaptable large tree common to the woods of eastern North America. A red tinge can be found in its flowers, twigs, and seeds, but it is most notable for the scarlet of its leaves in fall. Red maple needs plenty of room for its dense, spreading root system. Fall color can be yellow rather than red, so select a cultivar bred for red fall color.
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area
- North America
- Zone 3
- Zone 4
- Zone 5
- Zone 6
- Zone 7
- Zone 8
- Zone 9
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Wet sites
- Occasional flooding
- Road salt
- Acid soil
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Wet soil
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Early spring
- Early fall
- Mid fall
Size and Form
40 to 50 feet high and 35 to 45 feet wide; oval, pyramidal or rounded in shape
Tree & Plant Care
Chlorosis symptoms (pale green leaves with dark green veins) can be a problem in high pH soil and drought conditions.
Maples are considered 'bleeders' and are best pruned in early winter or during summer.
Although a good parkway or street tree, red maple does not tolerate heavy pollution.
Disease, pests, and problems
Verticillium wilt (fungus) is a potential problem for maples; maple bladder gall, leaf hoppers
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Tolerant of wet sites and black walnut toxicity
Native geographic location and habitat
Bark color and texture
Mature bark is dark-gray with vertical, scaly plates. Young trees have smooth gray bark.
Opposite, most leaves about 4 inches long and wide
Simple, 3 to 5 lobes, irregularly toothed, red stalks
Leaves emerge with red tinge but deepen to dark green. Fall color varies by cultivar from red to yellow to orange.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Red petaled clusters in early spring (Mar-Apr) . Male flowers not as intense red as female.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fruit are winged seeds in pairs (samaras), about 1 to 2 inches long, ripens in spring.
Color can be red to brown.
Cultivars and their differences
Note: There is much confusion in the nursery trade about red maples and the hybrids of Freeman maple, which is a red maple and silver maple cross.
Autumn Flame (Acer rubrum 'Autumn Flame'): 50 to 60 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide; densely rounded shape and red to yellow fall color
Bowhall (Acer rubrum 'Bowhall'): 40 to 50 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide; symmetrical, upright-narrow shape with late orange-red fall color
October Glory (Acer rubrum 'October Glory'): 40 to 60 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide; rounded to oval shape, female (red tinged seeds), orange-red fall color
Redpointe® (Acer rubrum 'Frank Jr.'): 40 to 50 feet high and 25 to 30 feet wide; pyramidal shape with brilliant red fall color
Red Sunset® (Acer rubrum 'Franksred'): 40 to 50 feet high and 25 to 35 feet wide; pyramidal to rounded form, striking red fall color