Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

The Red Maple (Acer rubrum); also known as the Scarlet Maple, Swamp Maple. Carolina Red Maple, Drummond Red Maple, Water Maple and Soft Maple; is a deciduous, dioecious angiosperm although the flowers are imperfect. It is in the Maple Family (Aceraceae). The family and genus names are from the Latin for "maple" (aceris). The species name is the Latin for 'red."

Red Maples are excellent shade trees. The white, fine-grained wood is used to make a variety of wood products including flooring, furniture, musical instruments and kitchen items. It is an excellent wood for burning in wood stoves and furnaces. The sap can be boiled down in the spring to make maple syrup but this syrup contains only half the sugar of syrup from the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and will be more frothy.  Sugar Maples are found on Mount Desert Island but are not as common as Red Maples.

This tree can reach a height of 66 feet (20 meters) with a trunk diameter of up to two feet (61 centimeters) and an occasional larger specimen may be found . The crown is narrow, rounded and compact.

The Red Maple leaf can vary in appearance but all Red Maple leaves have three shallow lobes with short, sharp points. There may be two small lobes near the base as seen in the photograph below. The margins are roughly serrated, which helps distinguish this maple from other maples with three lobes. Each leaf is from 2½ to 4 inches (6 to 10 centimeters) long and about as wide. The leaves are arranged oppositely on the twigs and have long petioles (the stem between the leaf and the twig). The twigs are reddish and hairless. The petioles may be red as seen in the following photograph. There are five main veins originating at the point where the petiole attaches to the leaf. The two bottom main veins are short and often not as prominent as the longer main veins. The top of a leaf is dull green and the bottom whiter and hairy. The leaves turn red in the fall. They change color before other trees and appear yellow before turning red. During the growing season, the green color of the leaf is dominate from the abundance of chlorophyll. However, the leaf's basic cell color is red. As chlorophyll is depleted, the remaining green chlorophyll combines with the red leaf cell color to make the leaf appear yellow. (The primary color green + the primary color red = yellow.) When the chlorophyll is gone, the leaf appears bright red to orange.


Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Leaf

The following photograph shows the foliage in fall.

Red Maple Fall Folliage

The flowers of the Red Maple are small, ⅛ inch (3 millimeters) long, red and scattered in clusters on the twigs. Male and female flowers are in separate clusters. The fruits are reddish-brown winged nutlets  from ¾ to 1 inch (2 to 2.5 centimeters) long in paired forking keys. There are 22,720 seeds per pound (0.45 kilograms). The next photograph shows the keys.

Red Maple Winged Seeds

The Red Maple bark is gray, thin, smooth but develops long, scaly ridges with age.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Bark

These trees prefer wet areas and are very common around French Hill Pond.

The minimum root depth is 30 inches (76 centimeters).

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