Plant DetailShow Menu

Curled Maple Acer rubrum

Previously known as:

  • Acer sanguineum
  • Rufacer rubrum
Phonetic Spelling
AY-ser ROO-brum
Description

Acer rubrum, or Red Maple is a native deciduous tree that may grow to 120 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter, but is more commonly 40 to 70 feet high and 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet across. It is a handsome shade tree with a rounded crown and ascending branches to a 30 to 50-foot spread. In nature, it can be found growing in upland deciduous forests, up to at least 1500m in elevation. It is easy to grow in average, medium to wet, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. It tolerant of a wide range of soils, including clay, but prefers moist, slightly acid conditions. it is very cold hardy. It grows faster than Norway and sugar maples, but slower than silver maple.

This is one of the first trees to show color in the fall. The leaves are opposite, with 3-5 palmate lobes and toothed margins on long red stems.  The red maple has a slightly smaller leaf than most other species of maples. Its leaves' most distinctive feature is a rough, saw-like edge. If the leaf margin, or edge, of your maple's leaves appear serrated, it is probably a red maple. The bark of young trees is smooth, silvery-gray becoming scaly and dark with age.  Small, red flowers in clusters mature in late-winter and are one of the first trees to flower in early spring.  During spring, light brown or red-winged samaras mature.  In the fall the leaves turn orange-red fall through the brilliance of this color can vary among individual trees. It is easy to plant and establish as a transplant of a small specimen bare-root, or balled and burlapped.

This tree is the best choice for a soft maple.  It makes an excellent, lawn, park, or street tree; however, it has a shallow, flattened root system that may buckle nearby sidewalks or driveways if planted too close.  It has some tolerance for air pollution. The light, creme-colored wood which is known commercially as soft maple is heavy, closed grained, and rather weak. It is used in the manufacture of furniture, woodenware, and as pulpwood.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: No serious insect or disease problems. In alkaline soils, it can develop manganese chlorosis. Watch for aphids, leafhoppers, borers, scale and caterpillars. Also note that verticillium wilt attacks the vascular system and can be fatal. Canker, fungal leaf spot and root rots may also occur. Wind and ice may break some branches. This tree has a shallow, flattened root system that may buckle nearby sidewalks or driveways if planted too close.

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Armstrong' and 'Armstrong Gold'
  • 'Autumn Fantasy'
  • 'Autumn Flame'
    Male selection with abundant leaves that are smaller in size, excellent early scarlet fall color.
  • 'Autumn Radiance'
  • 'Bowhall'
  • 'Brandywine'
    Male selection, intense and consistent fall color.
  • 'Burgandy Belle' or 'Magnificent Magenta'
  • 'Embers'
  • 'Franksred'
    Outstanding orange to red fall color.
  • 'Karpick'
    Male, narrow form (20 foot spread). Good yellow or red foliage.
  • 'October Glory'
    Female, exceptional fall color.
  • 'Red Rocket'
  • 'Red Sunset'
  • 'Somerset'
  • 'Summer Red'
  • 'Sun Valley'
    Male, smaller and more symetrical.
'Armstrong' and 'Armstrong Gold', 'Autumn Fantasy', 'Autumn Flame', 'Autumn Radiance', 'Bowhall', 'Brandywine', 'Burgandy Belle' or 'Magnificent Magenta', 'Embers', 'Franksred', 'Karpick', 'October Glory', 'Red Rocket', 'Red Sunset', 'Somerset', 'Summer Red', 'Sun Valley'
Tags:
#food source summer#red#sun tolerant#food source nectar#flood tolerant#cpp#wet soils tolerant#flower#food source mid-summer#moth larva#sunshine#screening#deciduous#summer fruits#part sun#part shade#food source pollen#food source#bird friendly#red flowers#full sun#shade tree#yellow#low flammability#full sun flowers#coastal plant#winter interest#buffer#food source spring#pollinators#specimen#piedmont#samara#spring fruits#fast growing#bees#wetland margins#tsc-t#wet sites#children's garden#NC native#flowering#compaction tolerant#winter flowers#non-toxic for dogs#pollinator plant#edible seeds#nighttime garden#playground#food source herbage#native#food source hard mast fruit#nectar plant#fall color#pollinator garden#small mammals#problem for horses#deciduous tree#coastal#flowering tree#small and large mammals#flowers#fire resistant#butterfly friendly#samaras#native tree#winter garden#spring interest#coastal areas#moths#partial sun#heat tolerant#mountains#audubon#large shade tree#larval host plant#colorful leaves#drought tolerant#native garden#Piedmont Mountains FAC#partial shade#wildlife plant#non-toxic for cats#moist soil#coastal FAC#tsc#full sunlight#summer interest#butterflies#imperial moth#coast#spring flowers
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Armstrong' and 'Armstrong Gold'
  • 'Autumn Fantasy'
  • 'Autumn Flame'
    Male selection with abundant leaves that are smaller in size, excellent early scarlet fall color.
  • 'Autumn Radiance'
  • 'Bowhall'
  • 'Brandywine'
    Male selection, intense and consistent fall color.
  • 'Burgandy Belle' or 'Magnificent Magenta'
  • 'Embers'
  • 'Franksred'
    Outstanding orange to red fall color.
  • 'Karpick'
    Male, narrow form (20 foot spread). Good yellow or red foliage.
  • 'October Glory'
    Female, exceptional fall color.
  • 'Red Rocket'
  • 'Red Sunset'
  • 'Somerset'
  • 'Summer Red'
  • 'Sun Valley'
    Male, smaller and more symetrical.
'Armstrong' and 'Armstrong Gold', 'Autumn Fantasy', 'Autumn Flame', 'Autumn Radiance', 'Bowhall', 'Brandywine', 'Burgandy Belle' or 'Magnificent Magenta', 'Embers', 'Franksred', 'Karpick', 'October Glory', 'Red Rocket', 'Red Sunset', 'Somerset', 'Summer Red', 'Sun Valley'
Tags:
#food source summer#red#sun tolerant#food source nectar#flood tolerant#cpp#wet soils tolerant#flower#food source mid-summer#moth larva#sunshine#screening#deciduous#summer fruits#part sun#part shade#food source pollen#food source#bird friendly#red flowers#full sun#shade tree#yellow#low flammability#full sun flowers#coastal plant#winter interest#buffer#food source spring#pollinators#specimen#piedmont#samara#spring fruits#fast growing#bees#wetland margins#tsc-t#wet sites#children's garden#NC native#flowering#compaction tolerant#winter flowers#non-toxic for dogs#pollinator plant#edible seeds#nighttime garden#playground#food source herbage#native#food source hard mast fruit#nectar plant#fall color#pollinator garden#small mammals#problem for horses#deciduous tree#coastal#flowering tree#small and large mammals#flowers#fire resistant#butterfly friendly#samaras#native tree#winter garden#spring interest#coastal areas#moths#partial sun#heat tolerant#mountains#audubon#large shade tree#larval host plant#colorful leaves#drought tolerant#native garden#Piedmont Mountains FAC#partial shade#wildlife plant#non-toxic for cats#moist soil#coastal FAC#tsc#full sunlight#summer interest#butterflies#imperial moth#coast#spring flowers
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Acer
    Species:
    rubrum
    Family:
    Sapindaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Native Americans are known to have used parts of this tree as sweeteners, in food, and in medicine.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Newfoundland to Florida West to Minnesota Oklahoma and Texas.
    Distribution:
    throughout North Carolina.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Members of the genus Acer support Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) larvae which have one brood per season and appear from April-October in the south. Adult Imperial Moths do not feed. Flower nectar attracts bees and other pollinators.  Seeds are enjoyed by birds.  The fruit, along with the buds, are a primary food source for gray squirrels in late winter and early spring. Sprouts are a favorite food for white-tailed deer, but this tree is moderately resistant to damage.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Buffer
    Colorful
    Edible fruit
    Pieces Used in Games
    Screening
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wind Break
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to fire in landscape. Tolerates wet soil occasionally.
    Edibility:
    The sap contains sugar and this can be used as a drink or be concentrated into a syrup by boiling off the water. The syrup is used as a sweetener on many foods. This species only yields about half the quantity obtained from the sugar maple (A. saccharum).
    Dimensions:
    Height: 40 ft. 0 in. - 120 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasional Flooding
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2b, 2a, 3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Red/Burgundy
    Variegated
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Samara
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The paired, winged, fruit is in a "V" shaped, red, pink, or yellow, winged samara about 3/4 of an inch long on drooping stems. They turn tan or brown when mature and drop from the plant. In North Carolina, the samaras are available from April to July.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The polygamous flowers grow in short-stemmed drooping clusters in springtime, before the leaves appear. In North Carolina, Red Maple flowers from January to March.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Orange
    Leaf Feel:
    Slippery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Deltoid
    Palmatifid
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Palmately veined with 3 principal triangular lobes (sometimes 5 lobes with the two lower lobes being much smaller). Irregularly and coarsely toothed, medium to dark green above, grayish beneath with hairy veins, petiole 2-4" long and red. Brilliant red, orange, and yellow colors show during fall. The leaves are 2 to 6 inches long and are somewhat broader than long.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Young bark is smooth and light gray. On old trunks, the bark is thick, dark gray and separated by vertical ridges into large, plate-like, scales.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Stems slender, red, and shiny. Buds are red. Winter buds have three or more scales that overlap like shingles, with one edge covered and the other edge exposed.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Recreational Play Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Compaction
    Deer
    Drought
    Fire
    Heat
    Pollution
    Urban Conditions
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Problem for Horses