Red Maple is also known as swamp maple, soft maple, scarlet maple, Carolina red maple, Drummond red maple, or water maple and has the botanical name: Acer rubrum. It is one of the most common and widespread deciduous trees of eastern North America.
Red maple is a subclimax species that can occupy overstory space but is usually replaced by other species. It is classed as shade tolerant and as a prolific sprouter. It has great ecological amplitude from sea level to about 900 m (3,000 ft) and grows over a wide range of microhabitat sites. It ranks high as a shade tree for landscapes.
Many of its features, especially its leaves, are quite variable in form. It is aptly named as its flowers, petioles, twigs and seeds are all red to varying degrees. Among these features, however, it is best known for its brilliant deep scarlet foliage in fall.
A. rubrum is usually easy to identify and it is highly changeable in morphological characteristics. It is a medium to large sized tree, reaching heights of 18 to 27 meters (60 to 90 feet) and exceptionally over 35 meters (115 ft). The leaves are usually 9 to 11 cm (3 1/2 in. to 4 3/8 in.) long on a full grown tree. The trunk diameter can range from 46 to 76 cm (18 to 30 inches), depending on the growing conditions. Its spread is about 12 m (40 ft).
As with nearly all maple trees, their leaves are deciduous and arranged oppositely on the twig. They are typically 5–10 cm (2-4 inches) long and wide with 3-5 palmate lobes with a serrated margin. The sinuses are typically narrow, but the leaves can exhibit considerable variation.
The flowers are red with 5 small petals and a 5-lobed calyx borne in hanging clusters, usually at the twig tips. They are lineal to oblong in shape and are pubescent. The pistillate flowers have one pistil formed from two fused carpels with a glabrous superior ovary and two long styles that protrude beyond the perianth. The staminate flowers contain between 4 and 12 stamens, often with 8.
The fruit is a 15 to 25 millimeter (.5 to .75 inch) long double samara (a type of fruit in which a flattened wing of fibrous, papery tissue develops from the ovary wall) with somewhat divergent wings at an angle of 50 to 60 degrees. They are borne on long slender stems and are variable in color from light brown to reddish.
They ripen from April through early June, before even the leaf development is altogether complete. After they reach maturity, the seeds are dispersed for a 1 to 2 week period from April through July.