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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Red Maple

Red Maple

(Acer rubrum L.)

  Red maple, also called swamp maple or soft maple, is widely distributed throughout the state.

Under ideal conditions, the tree may reach 115 feet in height and 6 feet in diameter. It commonly grows 40 to 70 feet tall, with diameters of 11/2 to 2 1/2 feet.

Red maple leaves are three- to five-lobed and have coarsely toothed margins. The leaves are 2 to 6 inches long and are somewhat broader than long. They turn brilliant scarlet, orange or bright yellow in autumn. The twigs are slender, dark red and shiny. The polygamous flowers grow in short-stemmed clusters in springtime, before the leaves appear.

The paired, winged fruit is reddish and V-shaped. It ripens in the late spring or early summer on drooping stems that are 3 to 4 inches long. The fruit, along with the buds, are a primary food source for gray squirrels in late winter and early spring. Sprouts are a favorite food of deer.

On young trunks, the bark is smooth and light gray. On old trunks, the bark is thick, dark gray and separated by vertical ridges into large, plate-like scales.

The light cream colored wood, which is known commercially as soft maple, is heavy, close-grained and rather weak. It is used in the manufacture of furniture, turnery and woodenware and as pulpwood.
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