Often considered the most abundant native tree in eastern North America, this deciduous maple is extremely adaptable to a wide variety of conditions. Though it is also called the swamp maple, as it grows best around swamps, it can tolerate ranges of soil moisture, pH, and pollution in forests, meadows, freshwater shores, and wetlands. Its bright red fall foliage, as well as its red spring buds and summer leaf stems, aptly gave it the specific Latin name, “rubrum,” which translates to “red.” This combination of hardiness, attractive foliage, and typical growth over 90 feet makes it a favorable street tree.
Widely considered a keystone species, red maple holds crucial and irreplaceable ecological value within its ecosystems. It hosts the caterpillars of more than 280 butterfly and moth species, which feed on its leaves, and its flowers provide nectar and pollen for numerous other insects. Further, as an early-successional tree, its seeds are a staple food supply for many birds and mammals in recovering habitats. Its sap is used for maple syrup production, though its short yield period makes it less favorable than the sugar maple or black maple.