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The Red and Fierce Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) is a deciduous tree found in eastern United States, west to Texas and is perhaps one of the most common trees due to fire suppression. The genus, Acer, is a host plant for many moths and the red maple is a host to two of them. The reddish flowers are one of the first flowers to come out in the spring. Red maple grows in a variety of habitats and can grow to 120 feet tall.

Taxonomy and History of Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Herbarium specimen of red maple (Acer rubrum).
Herbarium Specimen — Acer rubrum L. collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Taxonomy

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) was described and named by Carl Von Linnaeus in 1753 in Species Plantarum. It has kept the same name since. This plant is a member of the Maple Family (Aceraceae).

Physical Description and Alternative Names

Tree of red maple (Acer rubrum) with red foliage in a yard.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) in a yard — Tony, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Description

Red maple is a deciduous tree that can grow to up to 120 feet tall. When planted in a landscape situation it can be smaller. The alternate, simple, serrate leaves range from 3 to 6 inches in length and width. It has red flowers that bloom in the late winter to spring depending on location and elevation.

Alternative Names

This plant is also known as Carolina Maple, Curled Maple, Drummond’s Maple (var. drummondii), and Swamp Maple.

Range and Habitat

Open riverine floodplain.
Floodplain Habitat — Leonhard Lenz, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Range Map of Red Maple (Acer rubrum) in the United States

This species is native from the eastern United States west to Texas. It has been planted in South Dakota and Oregon. In Canada, it is found in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland.

Habitat

This tree can be found in a lot of different habitats from dry to wet. It can be found in a lot of planted settings as a landscape tree.

Insects and Other Wildlife it Supports

Rosy maple (Dryocampa rubicunda) moth on a brown surface.
Rosy Maple Moth — English: NPS Photo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Flowers of Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Red flowers of Red Maple — Syp, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Host Species

This tree is a host to the Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) and the Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda).

Other Wildlife Value

The flowers attract bees and other insects. The winged seeds are eaten by birds and squirrels.

Interesting Facts

The genus name, Acer, is Latin for maple tree. The species name, rubrum, means “red” in Latin. (Missouri Botanical Garden).

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