One of the most widespread trees on the East Coast, native across the eastern United States, red maple gets its name from
the red twigs. buds, flowers, and fruit it develops in the spring and spectacular leaf colors of the orange-red palette it
produces in the fall. Red maples flower in April, before their leaves come out. The fruits promptly ripen by the time the
leaves grow the full size at the end of May. The leaves have three main lobes and sometimes two additional smaller lobes.
The bark on the youngest twigs is dark red, then becoming pale gray. Mature bark darkens to nearly black, often exfoliating,
its structure very variable. Red maple is a rather tall (to 40-60 ft), fast-growing, adaptable tree that can grow in wide
range of environments, although its prime habitats are wetlands. Here it often becomes a forest-forming tree, producing the
signature plant communities: red maple swamps. The tree is very tolerant of flooding, although it can grow quite abundantly
in drier habitats. Its intensive seedling production along with dense root system often makes it difficult for other plants
to compete. Red maple is sometimes exploited for maple syrup, though only on a small scale, as it does not produce as much
syrup as sugar maple. New England becomes so attractive for tourists during the fall largely due to the performance staged
here by red maples.
Twig and buds, February 5, Milton
Flowering at Quincy Quarry, April 21
Ripe fruit, May 23, Dover
Red maple swamp, one of the most common plant communities in Massachusetts