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.
This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All Common Names:
- Residential and parks
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Shade tree,
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Wet sites,
- Occasional flooding,
- Alkaline soil,
- Clay soil
- Moderately Tolerant
- Commonly planted,
- Intolerant of pollution
- Fall color,
- Showy fruit
Season of Interest:
- Early spring,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Game mammals,
- Insect pollinators,
- Small mammals,
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.
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.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Opposite; most leaves about 4 inches long and wide.
Simple, 3 to 5 lobes, irregularly toothed, with 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. flowers provide mild interest.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fruit are winged seeds in pairs (samaras), about 1 to 2 inches long, ripening in spring.
Color can be red to brown.
Cultivars and their differences
These plants are cultivars of a species that is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.
Armstrong Gold red maple (Acer rubrum 'KW78'): An improvement on 'Armstrong', this upright cultivar is very narrow at 40 feet high and 12 feet wide. The fall color is gold to orange. Good for narrow street planting sites.
Brandywine red maple (Acer rubrum 'Brandywine'): 40 feet high and 30 feet wide; oval form; male cultivar (seedless); deep red fall color; resistant to leafhopper.
October Glory red maple (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® red maple (Acer rubrum 'Frank Jr.'): 40 to 50 feet high and 25 to 30 feet wide; pyramidal shape with brilliant red fall color.
Red Sunset® red maple (Acer rubrum 'Franksred'): 40 to 50 feet high and 25 to 35 feet wide; pyramidal to rounded form, striking red fall color.