Also Known As
Scarlet maple, Soft maple, Swamp maple
Red maples are distinctive in having the red flowers emerge a week or more before the leaves. In the fall, look for brilliant red leaves.
There are many native and ornamental maples. Red maples are distinctive in having the red flowers emerge a week or more before the leaves. Silver maple (A. saccharinum) has greenish-yellow flowers that emerge well before the leaves and has large 5-lobed leaves with whitish undersides (only 3 main lobes in red maple). The other ornamental maples generally have green undersides of leaves (as contrasted with white or gray in red maple) and usually do not have red flowers.
Did You Know?
Because of its brilliant red color in the fall, Red maple is prized as an ornamental. The sap can be used for producing maple syrup, however its sap has only about half of the sugar content as sugar maple. Native Americans used red maple bark as an analgesic, wash for inflamed eyes and cataracts, and as a remedy for hives and muscular aches.
The leaves are opposite, simple, 3 to 5 palmate lobes with toothed (serrated) edges. They are 2 to 4 in (5 to 10 cm) long. In the spring, the leaves are red-tinged. In the summer, they are green above and whitened and sometimes finely hairy underneath. In the fall, they are bright red (hence their name). Twigs are also red with red buds.
Small reddish to yellowish flowers on slender stalks with petals which appear before leaf budburst. Most trees have both male and female flowers (usually on separate branches) but occasionally trees only produce female flowers. Red maples are one of the first trees to flower in spring, usually March to April.
The fruit is a double samara ("helicopter") with wings that angle downward. Seed dispersal is defined as when the fruits turn brown and start falling, which usually occurs before leaves are fully developed, April through July (depending on elevation).
The bark is smooth and light gray on young trees, becoming darker with age and becoming furrowed into long, narrow, scaly ridges on older trunks and branches.