Red Maple

Acer rubrum L.




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Family:  Aceraceae

Native or Introduced to Illinois:  native

Natural Habit in Illinois:  swamps; low woods; uplands, slopes; bluff tops

Leaf:  The leaves are arranged opposite on the twigs.  They are broadly ovate with3 shallow short-pointed lobes turning red, orange, and yellow in the autumn.  The lobes sinuses are sharp, with toothed margins.

Flower:  Appear March to May, usually before leaves; usually bright red but occasionally yellow.

Fruit:  The fruit is a v-shaped samara (winged seed).  Red maple has the smallest winged seeds (samaras) of all native maples, about 5/8-3/4 inches long.  Also, the samaras ripen in the spring- a trait shared only with silver maple which has much larger samaras. 

Twig:   The twigs are shiny red with numerous small lenticels.

Bark:  On young trees, smooth and light gray, with age becomes darker and breaks up into long scaly plates.

Size/Form/Shape:   This maple is a medium sized tree with fairly rapid growth (2-5 ft/yr), but not as fast as the much larger growing silver maple.

County Distribution Map for Illinois:  


Sources for the Sullivan Middle School Tree Identification Guide were obtained though the use of the following sites:

The information below is from the National Arbor Day Foundation.  This information can be viewed in the original (source) form by visiting The National Arbor Day Foundation at

Sun Exposure:  This maple does well in partial shade to full sun.
Soil Type:  The Red Maple grows in acidic, loamy, clay, sandy, wet, well-drained soils, and is sensitive to salt.
Moisture:  Prefers wet soil conditions. Slight drought tolerance.
Growth Rate:  This tree grows at a medium to fast growth rate.

Hardiness Zones:  3 - 9
This maple can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the zone map.