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Acer rubrum

Common Name(s):
Red maple
Native Plants, Trees

Red Maple is a deciduous tree that may grow 40 to 120 feet tall but is usually less than 40 feet.  The leaves are opposite, with 3-5 palmate lobes and toothed margins on long red stems.  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.

This tree is the best choice for a soft maple.  It makes an excellent, lawn, park, or street tree.  It has some tolerance to air pollution and transplants well when young.  

Regions:  Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain

Seasons of Interest: 

     Leaves: Fall; Bloom: Winter/Early Spring; Fruit/Seed/Nut: Spring

Wildlife Value: A larval host plant for caterpillars.  Flower nectar attracts bees and other pollinators.  Seeds are enjoyed by birds.  White-tailed deer browse twigs and leaves but this tree is moderately resistant to damage.

Play Value: Wind Screen & Buffers

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Gloomy scale can be a problem.  Horticultural oils are an effective treatment during the dormant season on small trees but is very difficult and ineffective on large trees.  The best bet is improving cultural conditions. Conduct a soil test, and amend accordingly.  Add mulch around the base of the tree and irrigate deeply in dry conditions.  Avoid over pruning.  Natural predators like mites and parasitic insects can manage scales effectively if left in balance so avoid spraying unnecessary pesticides that kill off beneficial insects.  This tree has a shallow, flattened root system that may buckle nearby sidewalks or driveways if planted too close.


40-60 ft.
Monoecious (meaning male and female flowers are present on separate trees), with small, red flowers in dense clusters in late winter to early spring, followed by two-winged samaras.
Sun to partial shade; range of soil types though it prefers moist, well-drained and slightly acidic. It naturally occurs in low wet sites and is one of the trees most tolerant of wet sites. This species has been known to tolerate flooded conditions for extended periods of time.
Pyramidal when young; ascending branches with an irregular, rounded crown
Full sun to partial shade
25-45 ft.
Growth Rate:
Moderate to rapid
2 to 5 in. opposite, simple leaf with 3 to 5 lobes; often triangular shape; variability fall color from tree to tree: red to yellow
native, nectar, pollinator, red, host, larval, deer resistant, deciduous, fall color, large shade tree, yellow, birds, wildlife, cpp, tsc, street, specimen, wet, wet site

NCCES plant id: 1892

Acer rubrum Trunk
Amanda Munoz, CC BY - 2.0
Acer rubrum Female flowers
Wendy Cutler, CC BY - 2.0
Acer rubrum Male flowers
Wendy Cutler, CC BY - 2.0
Acer rubrum Leaves
Frankenschulz, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Acer rubrum Whole tree
Janetandphil, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Gloomy scale Gloomy scale on Acer rubrum
Matt Bertone