Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Acer rubrum
SPECIES: Acer rubrum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Tirmenstein, D. A. 1991. Acer rubrum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
Acer rubrum f. tomentosum (Tausch) Siebert & Voss
Acer rubrum f. rubrum
Acer rubrum f. pallidum [38,86]
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
Red maple is a member of the maple family Aceraceae . It exhibits
great morphological variation and has been included in a highly variable
complex of related taxa [79,97]. The currently accepted scientific name
of red maple is Acer rubrum L. . Many varieties and forms have been
identified, but most are no longer recognized. The following varieties
are commonly recognized [38,86]:
Acer rubrum var. drummondii (Hook. & Arn. ex Nutt.) Sarg., Drummond's maple
Acer rubrum var. rubrum, red maple
Acer rubrum var. trilobum Torr. & Gray ex K. Koch, Carolina maple
Red maple hybridizes with silver maple (A. saccharinum) under natural
conditions . A hybrid product of this cross has been identified:
Acer X freemanii E. Murray, Freeman maple .
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Acer rubrum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Red maple is one of the most widely distributed trees in eastern North
America . Its range extends from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia west
to southern Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois; south through
Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and southern Texas; and east to southern
Florida . It is conspicuously absent from the bottomland forests of
the Corn Belt in the Prairie Peninsula of the Midwest, the coastal
prairies of southern Louisiana and southeastern Texas, and the swamp
prairie of the Florida everglades . It is cultivated in Hawaii .
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
AL AR CT DE FL GA HI IL IN KY
LA ME MA MD MI MN MS MO NH NJ
NY NC OH OK PA RI SC TN TX VT
VA WV WI MB NB NF NS ON PQ
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K081 Oak savanna
K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods (seral stages)
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest (seral stages)
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest (seral stages)
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
5 Balsam fir
12 Black spruce
14 Northern pin oak
17 Pin cherry
18 Paper birch
19 Gray birch - red maple
20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine - hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
30 Red spruce - yellow birch
31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech
32 Red spruce
33 Red spruce - balsam fir
37 Northern white-cedar
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
43 Bear oak
44 Chestnut oak
45 Pitch pine
46 Eastern redcedar
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
61 River birch - sycamore
62 Silver maple - American elm
65 Pin oak - sweetgum
73 Southern redcedar
74 Cabbage palmetto
75 Shortleaf pine
76 Shortleaf pine - oak
78 Virginia pine - oak
79 Virginia pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
85 Slash pine - hardwood
87 Sweetgum - yellow-poplar
88 Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf (laurel) oak
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
95 Black willow
96 Overcup oak - water hickory
97 Atlantic white-cedar
98 Pond pine
103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo
104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay
108 Red maple
110 Black oak
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Red maple occurs as a dominant or codominant in several eastern
deciduous forests and deciduous swamp communities with black ash
(Fraxinus nigra), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), northern red oak
(Quercus rubra), black oak ( Q. velutinus), aspen (Populus tremuloides),
and elm (Ulmus spp.). In mesic upland communities of the Southeast, it
grows as an overstory dominant with sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
and water oak (Quercus palustris). Red maple has been included as an
indicator or dominant in the following community type (cts) and plant
association (pas) classifications:
Location Classification Authority
AL forest cts Golden 1979
MA forest pas Spurr 1956
se MI deciduous swamp cts Barnes 1976
s MI forest cts Hammitt & Barnes 1989
NY forest cts Glitzenstein & others 1990
s ON general veg. cts Smith & others 1975
SPECIES: Acer rubrum
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
Red maple is an important source of sawtimber and pulpwood  but is
often overlooked as a wood resource . The wood is used for
furniture, veneer, pallets, cabinetry, plywood, barrels, crates,
flooring, and railroad ties [25,49,62].
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Red maple is browsed by some wildlife species, including white-tailed
deer, moose, elk, and snowshoe hare . It is a particularly valuable
white-tailed deer browse during the late fall and winter, and is
considered an important deer food in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Maine,
and Minnesota [31,51,60,70,94]. Although red maple is browsed by moose,
it is often only lightly used . Irwin , however, reported that
red maple is an important fall and winter moose browse in parts of
Red maple is one of the most palatable white-tailed deer foods in
Minnesota ; stump sprouts are especially sought out by deer [74,92].
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
The nutrient content of red maple browse varies with the genetic make-up
of the individual plant, plant part, position in the crown, phenological
development, and geographic location [22,28]. Soil moisture, soil
nutrients, fire history, and climatic conditions also influence food
COVER VALUE :
Maples provide cover for many species of wildlife . The screech
owl, pileated woodpecker, and common flicker nest in cavities in many
species of maple . Cavities in red maples in river floodplain
communities are often well suited for cavity nesters such as the wood
duck . Riparian red maple communities provide autumn roosts for
blackbirds in central Ohio .
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Red maple can be planted onto many types of disturbed sites. It can be
propagated by seed or by various vegetative techniques. Cleaned seed
averages approximately 23,000 per pound (51,100/kg). Red maple is
reported to be somewhat tolerant of municipal landfill leachates .
Seedlings have been observed colonizing strip mine spoils in parts of
Maryland, West Virginia, and Florida [45,72], but seedlings transplanted
onto strip-mine spoil banks often do poorly . Direct seeding in
old-field communities has not been successful .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Red maple is characterized by showy fruits and flowers and colorful fall
foliage . Red maple was first cultivated in 1656 , and many
cultivars are available [23,63,84]. Red maple can be used to make maple
syrup, although sugar maple is much more commonly used [55,97.
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Toxicity: Red maple browse is toxic to cattle and horses, particularly
during the summer and late fall [5,15,58].
Insects/disease: Loopers, spanworms, the gallmaking maple borer, maple
callus borer, Columbian timber borer, and various scale insects are
common damaging agents [4,97]. Red maple has experienced periodic
declines in past decades. Although the precise pathogens have not been
identified, evidence suggests that insects can weaken the trees, making
them more vulnerable to decline .
Damage: Red maple is tolerant of water-logged soils and flooding [3,6]
and is intermediately tolerant of ice damage. Red maple is susceptible
to decay after mechanical damage. Butt rot, trunk rot fungi, heart rot,
and stem diseases are common in damaged trees; even increment boring can
cause result in serious decay.
Pollution: Red maple is relatively tolerant of landfill-contaminated
gases , but ambient air pollution can damage the foliage . Red
maple persists in industrially damaged woodlands near Sudbury, Ontario,
despite the accumulation of heavy metals in the soil .
Chemical control: Red maple is resistant to herbicides and girdling
[66,97]. Picloram or cacodylic acid injected directly into the stems
can control red maple.
Silviculture: Red maple is often poorly regarded as a timber species
due to its susceptibility to defects and disease, and poor form of
individuals of sprout-clump origin . Red maple usually grows
rapidly after heavy cutting or high-grading, and crop tree release may
be a low-cost management option . Mechanical thinning of clumps can
produce good-quality sawlogs on good sites .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Acer rubrum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Red maple is a deciduous tree that grows 30 to 90 feet (9-28 m) tall and
up to 4 feet (1.6 m) in diameter [16,25]. The bark is smooth and gray
but darkens and becomes furrowed in narrow ridges with age [16,38].
Twigs are stout and shiny red to grayish brown .
The small, fragrant flowers are borne in slender-stalked, drooping,
axillary clusters [8,16,24,49]. The fruit is a paired, winged samara,
approximately 0.75 inch (1.9 cm) long . Samaras are red, pink, or
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
Undisturbed State: Phanerophyte (mesophanerophyte)
Burned or Clipped State: Chamaephyte
Burned or Clipped State: Hemicryptophyte
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Seed: Red maple can bear seed as early as 4 years of age  and
produces good or better seed crops over most of its range in 1 out of 2
years . Bumper seed crops do occur. Trees are extremely prolific;
individual trees 2 to 8 inches (5-20 cm) in diameter commonly produce
12,000 to 91,000 seeds annually, and trees 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter
can produce nearly 1,000,000 seeds . Seed is wind dispersed .
Seed banking: In parts of Nova Scotia and Minnesota, red maple seed has
been found buried at depths of 0 to 6 inches (0-16 cm) [2,61,81], but
these seeds are usually not viable [2,61]. Up to 95 percent of viable
seed germinates with the first 10 days ; some seed survives within
the duff and germinates the following year [30,61].
Seedling establishment: Seedbed requirements for red maple are minimal
, and a bank of persistent seedlings often accumulates beneath a
forest canopy . Seedlings may number more than 11,000 per acre
(44,534/ha)  and can survive for 3 to 5 years under moderate shade
Vegetative regeneration: Red maple sprouts vigorously from the stump,
root crown, or "root suckers" after fire or mechanical damage
[32,96,97]. Lees  observed that at least three generations of stump
sprouts can "thrive on the same regenerating root system." Buds located
at the base of stems commonly sprout 2 to 6 weeks after the stem is cut
. Mroz and others  reported that sprouting is generally
confined to the root collar.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Red maple grows throughout throughout much of the deciduous forest of
eastern North America and into the fringes of the boreal forest .
It occurs on a variety of wet to dry sites in dense woods and in
openings . Red maple grows in low, rich woods, along the margins of
lakes, marshes, and swamps, in hammocks, wet thickets, and on
floodplains and stream terraces [13,17,24,79,82]. Red maple also occurs
in drier upland woodlands, low-elevation cove forests, dry sandy plains,
and on stable dunes [24,38,96]. Red maple is a common dominant in many
forest types and is considered a major species or associate in more that
56 cover types . In much of the Northeast it grows as an overstory
dominant only in swamps and other wet sites . Red maple grows in
association with more than 70 important tree species.
Soils: Red maple does well on a wider range of soil types, textures,
moisture regimes, and pH than does any other forest species in North
America . It develops best on moist, fertile, loamy soils  but
also grows on a variety of dry, rocky, upland soils . Red maple
grows on soils derived from a variety of parent materials, including
granite, shales, slates, gneisses, schists, sandstone, limestone,
conlgomerates, and quartzites . It also occurs on a variety of
lacustrine sediments, glacial till, and glacial outwash .
Elevation: Red maple grows from sea level to 3,000 feet (0-900 m) in
elevation . Elevational ranges by geographic location are as
Location Elevation Authority
s Appalachians up to 5,904 feet (1,800 m) Duncan & Duncan 1988
White Mountains, NH 1,968 to 2,778 feet (600-850 m) Leak & Graber 1974
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Red maple is characterized by a wide ecological amplitude and occupies a
wide range of successional stages [54,83]. It is moderately tolerant of
shade in the North but intolerant of shade in the Piedmont . Red
maple commonly grows as a subclimax or mid-seral species [20,97], but
characteristics such as vigorous sprouting, prolific seeding, and
ability to compete enable it to pioneer on a variety of disturbed sites
[54,97]. This tree lives longer than most seral species  but
generally does not persist in late successional stages . In
even-aged stands which develop after clearcutting, red maple is commonly
overtopped by faster growing species such as northern red oak . In
a few locations in the Southeast, it grows as a climax dominant in
wet-site communities .
Red maple commonly increases after disturbances such as windthrow,
clearcutting, or fire . In many locations, red maple has increased
in importance since presettlement times. Dutch elm disease and chestnut
blight have led to increases in the number of red maple stems in many
stands . In many parts of the East, red maple has increased in gaps
resulting from oak decline and gypsy moth infestations [43,65].
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Red maple is one of the first trees to flower in early spring .
Specific flowering dates are largely dependent on weather conditions,
and latitude and elevation [8,97]. Flowers generally appear several
weeks before vegetative buds. Bud break may be affected by soil
factors, and is typically delayed for 7 to 10 days on copper-, lead-,
and zinc-mineralized sites . Fruit matures in spring before leaf
development is complete [39,97].
Generalized fruiting and flowering dates by geographic location are as
Location Flowering Fruiting Authority
Adirondack Mtns. Apr June Chapman &
Blue Ridge Mtns. Feb-Mar ---- Wofford 1989
FL Panhandle Jan-Apr ---- Clewell 1985
Gulf & Atlantic
Coasts Jan-May ---- Duncan & Duncan
MD Mar-Apr ---- Batra 1985
MA ---- mid May-early June Abbott 1974
MI late Apr-early May ---- Sakai 1990
NC, SC Jan-Mar Apr-July Radford & others 1968
e TN ---- mid-May-early Apr Farmer &
TX Feb ---- Simpson 1988
Nova Scotia late Apr-early May ---- Roland & Smith 1969
SPECIES: Acer rubrum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Red maple is a common fire type in the Acadian Forest of New Brunswick,
where mean fire intervals have been estimated at 370 years . In the
New Jersey Pine Barrens, mean fire intervals averaged 20 years in the
early 1900's, but due to a variety of factors including fire suppression
and increased prescribed burning, now average 65 years . Red maple
regeneration in the Pine Barrens is favored in the absence of fire .
In upland oak forests of central Pennsylvania fire suppression has led
to the replacement of oaks by red maple, beech, black cherry, and sugar
Red maple has also increased in the absence of fire throughout much of
the Southeast . In parts of the Appalachians, fire suppression has
allowed maple stems to grow large enough and develop bark thick enough
to enable them to survive fires . As a result, restoration to
presettlement conditions would be "a very long-term process" .
Red maple sprouts vigorously from the root crown after aboveground
vegetation is killed by fire . Seedling establishment may also
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex
off-site colonizer; seed carried by wind; postfire yrs 1 and 2
The following Research Project Summaries
provide further information on prescribed
SPECIES: Acer rubrum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Red maple is intolerant of fire; even large individuals can be killed by
moderate fires . Postfire mortality is relatively high for
saplings, but because bark becomes thicker and more fire-resistant with
age, mortality is much lower for sawtimber . The effects of fire
also vary with fire severity, season of burn, and various site factors.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
Season of burn: Late spring or early summer burns are most damaging to
understory hardwoods such as red maple . A series of consecutive
annual late spring and early summer burns killed the rootstocks of
progressively more individuals; however, as many as five consecutive
annual winter burns had no effect on sprouting ability of top-killed
Bark: Bark of red maple is intermediate in resistance to fire .
Mean number of seconds required for the cambium to reach 140 degrees (60
deg C) (often considered a lethal temperature) are as follows :
Bark thickness Seconds
0.20 inch 20.0
0.30 inch 56.8
0.40 inch 117.6
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Fire can stimulate sprouting of dormant red maple buds located on the
root crown . Trees top-killed by fire often sprout vigorously and
assume increased prominence in postfire stands . Seedlings also
sprout and may produce dense sprout clumps following fire .
Regrowth following fire is often rapid. Regrowth begins during the
first month following summer and fall burns, and significant increases
in stem density occur by the third and fourth postfire months. Martin
 observed red maple sprouts 2 weeks after a July fire in Nova
Scotia. Red maple establishes through seed from June through August
. Postfire increases in stem density commonly promotes red maple's
dominance within a stand .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
Red maple is reportedly common on burned lands in the Maritime Provinces
, boreal forests on northern Minnesota [12,51,96], and hardwood
forests of the Allegheny Mountains . However, it is rarely observed
on burned sites in Rhode Island  and was reported to be greatly
reduced by prescribed fire in northern Indiana woodlands .
On the George Washington National Forest, West Virginia, a spring prescribed
fire increased red maple density in a mixed-hardwood forest. Average red maple
seedling densities before fire and in postfire year 5 were 132 and 368
seedlings/acre, respectively; red maple sprout densities were 1,368
sprouts/acre before and 1,395 sprouts/acre 5 years after the fire. See the
Research Paper of Wendel and Smith's  study for details on the fire
prescription and fire effects on red maple and 6 other tree species.
fire use and postfire response of plant
community species, including red
maple, that was not available when this
species review was originally
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Protein content of red maple commonly increases on burned sites.
Low-intensity fires produced increases in protein levels during the
first postfire season, but no increases were noted the following season.
High-intensity fires produced significant increases in protein levels
during both the first and second seasons . Dills  reported,
however, that burning had no effect on the nutritive content of red
SPECIES: Acer rubrum
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