Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 4 Acer rubrum

Common Names: red maple, swamp maple, Carolina red maple Family: Aceraceae (maple Family)
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The red maple is a handsome, fast growing tree for home landscapes with the space to accommodate an ultimately large tree. In the photo is a selection called 'Embers' that has a rounded crown and beautiful fall foliage color.
Red maples are also known as swamp maples because they thrive in wet soils like these in the picture growing at the edge of a small pond.


The swamp or red maple is a beautiful deciduous tree that is often planted as an ornamental. It ranges from medium to large in stature with notable variation in size and form depending on its site. While this tree may attain a height of 120 ft (36.6 m) and grow 5 ft (1.5 m) in diameter under ideal conditions, it more commonly grows 40-50 ft (12.2-15.2 m) in height with diameters of 1.5-2.5 ft (3.8-6.4 cm). It has a narrow or rounded compact crown, and due to prolific sprouting, this tree often grows in clumps of stems from one stump. It also occurs as a single trunked tree and is most often grown this way in landscapes. There are a number of varieties offered on the market selected for characteristics like size, fall color and form.


Acer rubrum is a native American tree found throughout the eastern United States from the Atlantic ocean to the prairies, from South Florida to Canada. Although it is most commonly found on moist bottomlands or in swamps, it also occurs in drier soils.


When you use local nursery stock and carefully follow planting instructions, the red maple is one of the easiest trees to grow. Light: Full sun to partial shade. In nature the red maple is often a pioneer, occupying open sites but it will tolerate a fair amount of shade and can survive under the shade of larger trees. Moisture: Tolerant of both extremely wet and extremely dry soils. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 9. Crossing many hardiness zones this is a very versatile tree for landscaping. Propagation: Rooted cuttings of selected varieties are best for landscape use.


This beautiful maple is suitable for use as a shade tree and makes a very ornamental specimen with the added bonus of adding spring and fall color. As you might guess, the swamp maple is a great choice for planting in wet soils and along streams and at lakeside.

Known as soft maple to the forest products trade, red maple lumber is used in the furniture industry and smaller trees are also used to make high quality paper.

red maple flowers
The sight of bright red buds on the swamp maples is an early sign that spring is on the way.
red maple fruits
The really red samaras (fruits) of the red maple are as colorful as any flower might hope to be.


This handsome shade tree displays red coloring during different seasons of the year. It has the distinction of having the greatest north to south distribution of all trees on the east coast. Pioneers once made ink and cinnamon-brown and black dyes from an extract of the bark. Red maple is prized as an ornamental shade tree because of its rapid growth, highly colored flowers and fruit (winged samaras) and spectacular fall colors.


Red maple is susceptible to damage from ice storms, and due to its thin bark, care should be taken to keep lawn mowers and weed eaters at bay.

Jack Scheper07/29/99; updated 12/5/99, 1/23/04, 7/31/04, 3/21/08, 11/13/10, 2/8/12

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Acer species profiled on Floridata:

Acer buergerianum

( trident maple,three-toothed maple )

Acer campestre

( hedge maple,field maple )

Acer ginnala

( Amur maple )

Acer griseum

( paperbark maple )

Acer negundo

( boxelder, ash-leaf maple, Manitoba maple )

Acer palmatum

( Japanese maple )

Acer platanoides

( Norway maple )

Acer rubrum

( red maple, swamp maple, Carolina red maple )

Acer saccharinum

( silver maple, soft maple, white maple, river maple )

Acer saccharum

( sugar maple, rock maple, hard maple )

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