Common Tree Species of the Northwest Forest






Terminology | Pictorial

Acer rubrum
Red Maple
Aceraceae (Maple Family)

The red maple is sometimes known as scarlet maple, swamp maple, soft maple, Carolina red maple, Drummond red maple, and water maple. It ranks high as a shade tree for landscapes.


General - small to medium-sized, broadleaved hardwood, averaging 16 m (54 ft) high. Crown is small, dense and narrow with spreding or ascending branches. Young branchlets are red, shiny and hairless. On young trees, bark is smooth and light gray; with age becomes darker and breaks up into long scaly plates.

Red Maple Leaves - opposite, 3 to 5 palmate lobes with serrated margins; sinuses relatively shallow 2 to 4 inches long; light green above, whitened and sometimes glaucous or hairy beneath.

Flowers - appear in May, usually before leaves; bright red, rarely yellow on branchlets of the previous year.

Fruit - Clusters of 2 cm (< 1 in) long fruit with slighly divergent wings appear June and July, on long slender stems. Often reddish.


Occurring in the southern areas of Northwestern Ontario, red maple can probably thrive on a wider range of soil types, textures, moisture, pH, and elevation than any other forest species in North America. The species does not show a strong affinity for either a north or a south aspect. Although it develops best on moderately well-drained, moist sites at low to intermediate elevations, it is common in mountainous country on the drier ridges and on south and west exposures of upper slopes.


Young plants are often mistaken for the mountain maple. Brilliant fall colouring is one of the outstanding features of red maple. In the Boreal forest, its bright red foliage is a striking contrast against the dark green conifers and the white bark and yellow foliage of the paper birches. Red maple is widely used as a landscape tree. It is also a highly desirable wildlife browse food. White-tailed deer especially use the current season's growth as an important source of winter food.

More Information - Commercial Profiles for Northwestern Ontario Tree Species.

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