The red maple is one of more than 100 species of the Acer genus of plants. Specifically Acer rubrum, the red maple tree is commonly found in temperate deciduous forests, especially those prevalent across the eastern United States. Also known as the scarlet maple, cultivars of the red maple tree include Bowhall, October Glory, Red Sunset, Scanlon and Schlesingeri. Its uses in colonial America were primarily for furniture making but have widen over the years.
In the Landscape
Red maple trees function as ornamentals and shade trees in many human-constructed landscapes. Known for their brilliant fall foliage, straight trunks and crowns that spread with age, red maple trees generally grow to heights of 40 to 60 feet. However, in deep alluvial soils, specimens more than 100 feet in height are common. According to plant experts, red maple trees grow best if planted in full sun to partial shade and are sheltered from strong winds. Red maples will display the most vibrant autumn colors if grown in neutral to acidic soils. The trees do well in zones 4 through 9 and present rapid growth in optimal conditions.
According to the Woodworking Network, timber uses of red maple are growing in popularity, with the most significant increases in the manufacturing of kitchen cabinetry, in furniture making, and in the production of sporting goods. Other building uses of the timber include wall paneling and flooring material. The wood from red maple trees is pliable enough for working with the wood on both machine and hand tools, with a "medium density with good bending and crushing strengths," according to the Woodworking Network.
Food for Humans
The University of Minnesota Extension Service states that sugar and syrup acquired from maple trees are among the oldest agrarian wares produced in the United States. Although the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is the preferred choice of commercial producers, other varieties are tapped for sap, including red maples. Mature trees are drilled and the sap collected, generally in late winter. The sap is boiled, filtered and packaged as syrup. In the United States, maple syrup is a popular topper for breakfast pancakes and waffles and has made its way into numerous dessert recipes. The syrup can also be furthered processed into maple candy, fudge and sugar.
Food for Other Animals
The Arbor Day Foundation lists the winged fruits of the red maple tree, known as samaras, as a valuable food source for small mammals. The shoots and leaves of the red maple provide browse for larger mammals such as deer and elk.
- "The Plant Book: An Encyclopedia of Worldwide Flora 3800 Species in 2100 Genera"; Susan Olds and Margaret Page, editors; 2003
- Arbor Day Foundation: Tree Details
- Virginia Tech Forestry Department: Landowner Fact Sheets - Red Maple
- University of Minnesota Extension Service: Homemade Maple Syrup
- Photo Credit Red Maple tree image by Mr. D from Fotolia.com
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