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Celebrate Earth Day--Red Maple Tree

Credit: Wilcox Nursery

Red Maple trees are native throughout the eastern half of the United States. Each autumn the leaves of these trees erupt into a blaze of yellow, orange, and red.

As a native plant, red maple is also a favorite of local wildlife. It is an abundant seed source and blooms in the winter when flowers are rarer. Birds are attracted to this inviting tree.

A Red Maple tree can grow to be 60 - 75 feet tall at maturity – as tall as a 6-story building and more than double the height of the Wall of China.

Red Maple trees have palmately lobed leaves, which means their leaves resemble the shape of a hand with five lobes that extend in a fingerlike fashion from a central point, similar to palm of your hand.

The leaves are green on the top and a light greenish white on the underside, and they turn brilliant red in autumn. The leaf stalk and twigs also have a reddish color.

Small, hanging clusters of bright red flowers appear in spring before the leaves. Two red maple trees may look different from each other during the flowering period. Red Maples can produce all male flowers, all female flowers, or some of both.

Credit: Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS

Maple trees produce double samaras (winged seeds), but you may know them as “spinners” or “helicopters” due to their characteristic descent to the ground.

Red Maple tree are a larval host for Imperial moths, Cecropia Silkmoth, Polyphemus moth and Rosy Maple Moth. Moths play a vital role in food webs and also important pollinators.

Credit: Donald W. Hall, University of Florida

Because of the abundance and wide distribution, Red Maple tree’s early-produced pollen may be important to the biology of bees and other pollen-dependent insects. Most references describe red maple as wind pollinated, but insect pollination may be important, as many insects, especially bees, visit the flowers.


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