Rhode Island State Tree
Red Maple (common name)
Acer rubrum (scientific name)
The red maple is a fast growing tree of medium height, under 100 feet. It is not especially valuable as a source of lumber, but is one of the most used ornamental shade trees in the eastern United States. In autumn, the leaves change to red, but with varying degrees of intensity in wild plants.
Red maple is found throughout the eastern United States and southern Canada. The species is variable enough in the wild for three varieties to be recognized. The number of cultivars is huge, and almost all are selections for leaf color characteristics. This tree is also known as scarlet maple, swamp maple, soft maple, Carolina red maple, Drummond red maple, and water maple.
Red maple is a medium-sized deciduous tree that grows up to 90 feet (28 m) tall. Leaves are opposite with three broad lobes. The bark is smooth and gray but darkens and becomes furrowed in narrow ridges with age. Twigs are stout and shiny red to grayish brown. Fruit is red, pink, or yellow, paired, winged, and dangling.
Red maple has some structure on the tree that is red in every season. In winter, the buds are red, in spring, the flowers are red, and in autumn, the leaves often turn fiery red. In summer, the petioles or leaf stems are red.
Height: 30-90 ft (9-28 m)
Diameter: up to 4 ft (1.6 m)
Bark: smooth and gray, darkens with age
Fruit: paired, winged pod, 0.75 in (1.9 cm) long
Leaves: 3-5 broad lobes, 2-4 in (5-10 cm) long and wide
Red maple is a short- to medium-lived tree and seldom lives longer than 150 years. It reaches maturity in 70 to 80 years.
Red maple occurs in several eastern deciduous forests and deciduous swamp communities with black ash, yellow birch, northern red oak, black oak, aspen, and elm.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
Some wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, moose, elk, and snowshoe hare browse red maple. The fruits (samaras) provide food for many kinds of rodents, such as squirrels. Rabbits and deer eat red maple shoots and leaves.
Maples provide cover for many species of wildlife. The screech owl, pileated woodpecker, wood duck, and common flicker nest in cavities in many species of maple. Blackbirds roost in red maple in autumn. Red maple leaves, especially when dead or wilted, are toxic to cattle and horses.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Many foresters consider the tree inferior and undesirable because it is often poorly formed and defective, especially on poor sites. On good sites, however, it may grow fast with good form. Red maple is an important source of saw timber and pulpwood. The wood is used for furniture, veneer, pallets, cabinetry, plywood, barrels, crates, flooring, and railroad ties. Due to its susceptibility to defects and disease, red maple is often poorly regarded as a timber species. It is a medium quality firewood.
Although sugar maple is much more commonly used, red maple can be used to make maple syrup.
The showy fruits and flowers and colorful fall foliage of red maple make it a popular choice as a shade tree for landscapes.
Rhode Island's state tree can bear seed as early as four years of age. Trees are extremely prolific, producing nearly 1,000,000 seeds annually. Red maple sprouts vigorously from the stump, root crown, or root suckers after fire or mechanical damage.
Red maple grows throughout much of the deciduous forest of eastern North America and into the fringes of the boreal forest. It occurs on a variety of wet and dry sites, in dense woods and in openings, and on almost every type of site in between. Red maple grows in low, rich woods, along the margins of lakes, marshes, and swamps, in hammocks and wet thickets, and on floodplains and stream terraces. Red maple also occurs in drier upland woodlands, low-elevation cove forests, dry sandy plains, and on stable dunes.
Red maple is one of the most widely distributed trees in eastern North America. Its range extends from southeastern Canada and northern Minnesota, south to Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas, and east to Florida. It is conspicuously absent from the bottomland forests of the Corn Belt of the Midwest, the coastal prairies of southern Louisiana and southeastern Texas, and the swamp prairie of the Florida everglades. The tree is found at elevations from sea level to about 3,000 feet (900 m).
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U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press