Red Maple

Red Maple has brilliant red leaves in the fall.

Red Maple Deciduous

Acer rubrum

Red maple’s attractive shape, clean habit, and brilliant red fall color have made it one of the most commonly planted trees across the eastern United States including eastern Nebraska.  The tree has a remarkably wide native range occurring from Minnesota to New Foundland south to Florida and Texas, and most points in between.

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Where To Grow

Unfortunately, red maple has significant limitations for planting in the Great Plains. In Nebraska, red maple should be limited to sites where moisture is consistent (irrigated sites) and where winds are softened. While red maple is often planted in this part of the country it sometimes has problems with heavy clay sites. The tree likes soils that are more acidic and have higher organic content than most soils here.
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Suitable to plant east of the 100th meridian.
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Size at Maturity

Tree Height Tree Spread
35-50' 25-40'
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Tree Characteristics

Red maple has attractive ornamental features in every season. Early in spring, before leafing out, clusters of tiny red flowers with long, showy stamens cover the branches. Emerging leaves and winged seeds are red. The petioles (leaf stems) are red throughout the growing season. Fall foliage is striking and the bark, shaggy with age, is a nice winter feature. Red maple gets its name from the reddish color of the youngest twigs and the reddish buds that are visible in winter. 

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Wildlife Benefits

Because of the abundance and wide distribution red maple, its early-produced pollen may be important to the biology of bees and other pollen-dependent insects. Most references describe red maple as wind pollinated, but insect pollination may be important, as many insects, especially bees, visit the flowers. The seeds, buds, and flowers are eaten by various wildlife species. Squirrels and chipmunks store the seeds. White-tailed deer and elk browse red maple, and rabbits, which find the stump sprouts especially palatable, especially in fall and winter. Cavities in red maples in river floodplain communities are often well suited for cavity nesters such as the wood duck and others.

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Additional Considerations

It is not drought tolerant or wind tolerant and it turns yellow on high pH soils—all common issues in the Great Plains. Many cloned cultivars of red maple have been developed including the very popular ‘Red Sunset’.  ‘Burgundy Belle’ was developed in Kansas and is reported to have better drought tolerance than most.  Cultivars with proven cold tolerance include ‘Autumn Spire’, ‘Northfire’, & ‘Rubyfrost’.

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Interesting Facts

Native Americans used red maple bark as an analgesic, wash for inflamed eyes and cataracts, and as a remedy for hives and muscular aches. Tea brewed from the inner bark has been used for treating coughs and diarrhea. Pioneers made cinnamon brown and black dyes from a bark extract.