Red maple tree varieties

Red Maple Tree Varieties

Red maple is a tree which is also known by some people as swamp maple or scarlet maple. The leaves are characterized by their ability to change from green to red in fall. The trees can grow in so many places from drought areas to very cold areas. The trees are used in providing shade because they grow very fast and this is the major criteria for selecting shade trees. They are also used as shade trees because they have the ability to tolerate low light levels and the beautiful colors of the leaves beautify the environment where they are found.

The best time to plant red maple trees is either at the beginning of spring or towards the end of winter. This is due to the fact that the young plants will have enough time to get established in the soil before the soil freezes in winter. A mature red maple plant grows up to 90feet tall and a diameter of 35feet wide. There exist hybrids of these trees with different characteristics as discussed below.

The red sunset maple tree grows up to 60 feet tall. It is characterized by green leaves during summer which turns red during fall. The tree is a fast growing reason why it is used as shade in many areas of the world where the climatic conditions allow for its growth. The crown of the mature tree reaches a width of up to 40 feet providing good shade and also host to other animals like beautifully colored birds. The red sunset maple grows in different conditions such as in very dry conditions of drought as well as in extremely cold conditions too. Due to the fact that the roots of the red sunset maple tree grow slowly, it is advisable to plant the tree early in spring so they will be grounded before winter starts whereby the soils get frozen.

Autumn blaze maple trees grow up to 50 feet tall at maturity with the crown having a width of about 40 feet. These fast growing trees are characterized by green leaves in autumn which turn bright orange red in fall. These colors add some natural beauty to the environment where they are found. The leaves of autumn blaze maple trees are also known for not easily falling off but staying longer on the branches of the tree thereby providing beautiful colors all year round. These trees are resistant to pollution, insects and pests reason why they are suitable as shade trees in urban areas. They are not vulnerable to destruction by storms due to the strength of the wood. The best time to plant autumn blaze maple trees is early spring.

Mtn red maple is a small shrub tree that grows up to about 20 feet tall and the crown just about 15 centimeters wide. It’s also shade tolerant and grows very fast. The leaves are characterized by long red stalks which are usually longer than the leaves. The leaves are yellowish-green but turn red, brown or yellow in fall. The best time to plant mountain red maple trees is early spring when the conditions for establishing young roots are best and optimum so that before the onset of the freezing winter conditions the roots will be firm and rooted in the soil.

Based on the various uses and advantages of this variety of trees anyone that wants to buy red maple trees is very much encouraged. The trees are available for sale at affordable prices all year round. People interested in buying the seeds can have them at affordable prices, those interested in buying the young plants can also have them. The trees are economical in the sense that as once planted they can live for as many as 150 years and do not require a lot of maintenance while growing. The residents of Hanging Rock Development in the Tennessee Mountains says red maple trees is already changing colors in their area.

The above article was sponsored by Hanging Rock Development. The information contained in this article may contain ads or advertorial opinions.

Shades of Red: What is a Red Maple Tree?

Native Red Maple – fall foliage

In the nursery and landscape industry, saying the words “Red Maple” can apply to several distinctly different tree species and the many cultivars developed from these species. The average homeowner can get confused reading the labels tied to the trees at a nursery or garden centre. He just wants a red maple tree that will improve his property’s curb appeal and have attractive fall colours.

“Red Maples” fall into two basic groups. The first grouping is Native Maples consisting of Red Maple and Freeman’s Maple, a lesser known native maple that grows in parts of southern Ontario. Both species have green leaves throughout the summer months and attractive fall foliage with colours ranging from yellows to orange-red and red. The second group is a collection of “red-leaved” cultivars of the non-native Norway maple that have showy burgundy to reddish-purple leaves all summer long. Their fall colour is unimpressive. These groups are distinctly different.

Native Red maple (Acer rubrum)

True red maples (Acer rubrum) are impressive shade trees that grow to a height of 16 metres with a spread of 15 meters. Some get much larger. Red maple gets its name from the clusters of small, red buds and flowers that appear on the tree in early spring. The flowers become reddish-green winged fruits (samaras) by early-May. The fruit matures in mid to late-May and is used as a food source by some wildlife.

Mid-summer is the easiest time to tell native red maples from the “red-leaved” non-native maples many people mistakenly think are “red maples”. The leaves of red maples have a blush of red when they start to open in the spring, are green all summer long and turn to shades of yellow, orange and red (sometimes on the same tree), lasting for several weeks in the fall. Red maples are amongst the earliest trees to show colour changes in the fall. In nature, red maple trees vary greatly in fall colouration and intensity.

The nursery industry has developed many Acer rubrum cultivars (Trade names), each with its own distinguishing characteristics of form, growth rate, adaptability to habitat, hardiness and fall leaf colour. Cultivars of red maple are more consistently fall coloured than naturally occurring trees.

Click images below for more information on Native Red Maple trees .

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Native Freeman’s maple (Acer freemanii)

Freeman’s Maple is a lesser known native maple species found growing naturally in parts of southern Ontario and the Lake States. It is a naturally occurring hybrid of two native maple parents – red maple (Acer rubrum) and silver maple (Acer saccharinum). The hybridization takes the best qualities of both parents – the solid structure, attractive form and showy fall colours of red maple and the adaptability and faster growth from the silver maple.

Acer x freemanii prefers moist, acidic soils with good drainage and is more tolerant of high pH soils than native red maple. It is less susceptible to chlorosis symptoms than either red or silver maples. Their green summer leaves change to yellows and red-orange hues in the fall, varying from tree to tree.

Freeman’s Maple is produced as Acer x freemanii cultivars by the nursery industry. Cultivars are grown from cuttings or by grafting (not from seed), producing near identical offspring of the parent tree. They are given Trade names, some have been patented – like Jeffersred Maple, more commonly called Autumn Blaze Maple. Their consistent form, faster growth rate and brilliant orange-red fall colours have made cultivars of Freeman’s Maple popular in the urban landscape.

Every Autumn Blaze Maple will look very much like the parent it originated from, whereas Native Freeman’s Maple trees grown from seedlings planted into nursery fields will have the varying morphological characteristics common to the species.

Click images below for more information on Native Freeman’s Maple trees or .

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Non-Native Norway Maple and its “Red-Leaved” Cultivars

In the nursery world, many “other Maples” display vivid burgundy, maroon and reddish-purple leaves all summer long. They are called “red-leaved” maples. The most popular variety being “Crimson King” maple, which is not a red maple at all. It is a cultivar of Norway Maple (Acer plantanoides), a European tree that has leaves that look similar to native sugar maple. Crimson King maple was introduced in the US in 1947 as a seedling of A. plantanoides ‘Shwedleri” nigrum.

The brightly coloured leaves begin to unfurl shortly after clusters of yellow flowers appear in spring. The flowers become reddish-purple samaras with horizontally spreading wings by late summer. Crimson King Maples have a dense maroon red foliage all summer. The fall colour is a dull brownish-yellow.

It has a moderate growth rate. Height to 12 meters with a spread of 10 meters.

The seed has a low germinative capacity causing many to consider Crimson King as a potentially less invasive species than its parent – Norway maple.

Click images below for more information on non-native “red-leaved” cultivars of Norway maple .

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

The “Royal Red” Maple is a more recent cultivar of Norway maple. It is rumoured to be slightly smaller at maturity, a bit faster growing and hardier than the closely related Crimson King. It also has slightly better colour than Crimson King with glossy deep maroon foliage all summer long turning reddish-bronze in the fall. Both varieties provide dense shade, have a straight trunk and a well shaped canopy.

Many other red-leaved Norway maple cultivars are available from your local nursery or garden centre, each with its own landscape potential. They vary in form, growth rate, mature size and seasonal colour characteristics.

Native Red and Freeman’s Maple qualify for Rebate consideration when planted under the provisions of the Maple Leaves Forever “Thank You Rebate” program.

Cultivars developed from Native Maples, non-native maples and their cultivars are not eligible for Rebate consideration.

Compiled and written by Carl Mansfield, Arboreal Consultant, Maple Leaves Forever
Editing and layout by Mary Bella, Webmaster & Communications, Maple Leaves Forever

Maple Trees

Maple leaves

On this page: red maple, norway maple, sugar maple, silver maple, black maple

An excellent tree selector service “

Identify your tree leaf “

Maple tree culture and habits “

Red Maple

Acer rubrum

Red maple leaves and bark

The red maple is usually a medium-sized tree with a moderate growth rate. The bark is smooth and light gray on young- and intermediate-aged stems, while mature bark is dark gray and rough. Crushed twigs do not emit a rank odor as does the silver maple. Twigs are reddish and have rounded, oblong, vegetative buds. Floral buds are globose and conspicuous, since they are borne in clusters. Lower branches tend to sweep upward.

The species makes an excellent suburban or rural landscape tree in acid soil regions of the state. Numerous cultivars are available and are marketed based on fall color and habit. This tree has an acid soil requirement and is intolerant of wounding. With red maples, manganese deficiencies are common in neutral to alkaline soils.
Leaves: The leaves of the Red Maple are very roughly toothed with 3-5 shallow lobes. Most of the Red Maple leaves are a light or a pale green to a whitish. During Autumn, leaves turn a bright red or an bright orange.
Twigs: Most Red Maple twigs appear to be slender and glossy. At first the twigs are green but later in the year they turn a red.
Fruit: The dioecious, red flowers are borne in dense clusters and appear in March or April before the leaves; the buds turn a deep red sometime before they open. Male trees can be planted if you do not want fruit. Fruits have wings spreading at narrow angles and ripen in May or June. The fruit consists of pairs of winged seeds, or keys, 1/2—1 inch in length on long, drooping stems. Fruit color ranges from red to green, becoming tan when mature.
Bark: On a young Red Maple the bark can be smooth and gray. On older trees, bark can appear to be darker and rougher with peeling flakes.
Other Important Facts: The Red Maple is found mostly in Pennsylvania. Most Red Maples grow to a length of about 50 feet high.

Norway Maple

Acer plantanoids

Norway maple leaves and bark

The Norway maple was one of the most popular street trees in the United States in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It originated in Europe where it is native from Norway to Switzerland. It is hardy, retains its leaves longer than the native maples, and endures the smoke, dust, and drought of the city, though it is susceptible to verticillium wilt and girdling roots.

Leaves: The Norway Maples leaves are very different than those of the Red Maple. These leaves are 5 lobed and 4-7 inches wide. A milky sap pours from the stalk if it is broken. One characteristic by which it can always be distinguished is the presence of milky sap in the leaf stalks. If pressed or twisted, the leaf stalks always yield a few drops of milky sap. Foliage color is bright green above and shiny beneath, except for the horticultural color variants that include wine, golden, and variegated forms. Fall foliage color is yellow for the green-foliaged forms.
Twigs:The Norway Maples twigs are a reddish-brown. Buds grow on the ends of the twigs. Buds are large (1/4 inch) and red or greenish-red with two to three pairs of bud scales; they are a sure means of identification in the winter. Buds are rounded rather than acute-tipped.
Fruit: In early spring, the yellow to chartruse flowers are arranged in 3-inch diameter clusters along the twigs. Flowers are borne in April or May. This maple has the most attractive flowers of all maples. Flowers are showy since they bloom before the foliage emerges. Fruit has horizontally spreading wings that mature in September or October.
Bark: On young trees the bark can appear to be light brown and smooth. As the trees get older the bark gets darker and rougher. The grayish-black bark is furrowed with shallow, narrow ridges forming a regular diamond pattern.

Other Important Facts: The Norway Maple is imported from Europe. This tree, like the Red Maple, can also reach a height of 50 feet. It is not similar to other maples because of the larger leaves, milky sap and horizontal winged fruit. Leaf shape very similar to sugar maple but more ornate. A milky sap appears when the leaf is broken off of stem at the petiole. This sap is not found in sugar maple leaves and distinguishes the two species.

Sugar Maple

Acer saccharum

Sugar maple leaves and bark

The tree attains a height of more than 100 feet and a diameter of 3 feet or more. It is generally a slow-growing tree. In the open, sugar maples have a symmetrical crown. It is extensively planted as a shade tree, although it is urban intolerant and should not be used in tree lawns.

Leaves: are simple, 5 lobed with very few large teeth, which are about 4″ wide. The sinuses (division between the lobes) are rounded. The leaves are also a bright green towards the top,andpale green down to the bottom.These leaves turn bright yellow, orange or red in the fall.
Twigs: are a reddish-brown and go to a light brown. The twigs are smooth (glabrous) and reddish-brown in color. The winter buds are smaller than Norway maple and sharp-pointed with six to 10 pairs of scales.
Fruit: The flowers are yellowish-green, on long stalks, and appear with the leaves in April. Male and female flower clusters appear on the same tree. The fruit, which ripens in September, consists of a two-winged key. The two wings are nearly parallel, about 1 inch in length.
Bark: gray brown, smooth on young trunks, older trunks fissured with long, and irregular flakes. Bark is variable in this species. It is usually thin, smooth and gray on young trees, becoming thicker, darker and deeply furrowed into vertical, occasionally scaly ridges.

The way to tell Red Maple and Sugar Maple apart is by the bark. The real difference is that the Red Maple has lighter and smoother bark then the Sugar Maple. Also the Red Maple has a bitter sap as compared to the Sugar Maple.

Silver Maple

Acer saccharinum (dasycarpum)

Silver maple leaves and bark

The silver or soft maple is most common on moist land and along streams. It attains heights of 100 feet or more and diameters over 3 feet. It usually has a short trunk which divides into a number of large, ascending limbs. These again subdivide, and small branches droop but turn upward at the tips. The silver maple grows rapidly and has widely been planted as a shade tree. The urban-tolerance of the silver maple makes it the longest-lived of the maples in urban settings.

The wood is soft, weak, even textured, rather brittle, easily worked, and decays readily when exposed to the elements.

Leaves Leaves are 3 to 6 inches long, opposite, simple, and palmately 5-lobed. Leaves are lobed more than half way to midrib. Margins are irregularly double-toothed. The leaf surfaces are glabrous, light green above and white to silvery below, giving it the common name “silver maple.” Fall coloring is green to yellow-brown, and is not striking.
Twigs: The buds are rounded, red or reddish-brown, blunt-pointed, and generally like those of the red maple. Clusters of globose floral buds are also present on silver maple. Crushed twigs emit a rank odor.
Fruit: The flowers appear in February or March, before the leaves, in dense clusters and are of a greenish-yellow or reddish-yellow color. This may be the first native tree to flower, although the flowers are not showy. Fruits have divergent and curved wings that mature in May or June. It consists of a pair of winged seeds, or key, with wings 1—2 inches long on slender, flexible stems about an inch long. Fruit can be a litter problem, since they are borne in great numbers.
Bark The gray-brown bark is smooth on young trees, later developing irregular furrows with thin, gray, scaly plates.

Black Maple

Acer nigrum

Black maple leaves and bark

The black maple is a large, deciduous tree 60 to 80 ft in height with a dense, rounded crown and a straight trunk up to 4 ft in diameter. It is very similar to the sugar maple, with a few distinguishing characteristics: the leaves are usually palmately 3-lobed with hairy lower leaf surfaces, the leaf blades are thicker and characterisically drooping at the sides, twigs are orange-brown and the bark is almost black and more deeply furrowed.

Leaves: The leaves are simple, opposite, with a few coarse teeth along the margins, dark green on the upper surface and yellowish-green below. The fall color is yellow or brownish-yellow, sometimes red, but less so than the sugar maple. The 3 to 5-inch petioles often have leaf-like stipules at the base which obscure the lateral buds.
Fruit: Clusters of small, yellow flowers are produced in May at the base of newly-emerging leaves. The 0.5 to 1-inch-long winged fruits are produced in pairs. They mature and dry in late summer, sometimes separating when shed, leaving the hairy stalk on the tree.
Twigs: Winter buds are egg-shaped, with pointed tips and hairy, overlapping reddish-brown scales.
Bark: The bark of black maples is dark gray with deeply furrowed, irregular ridges. The bark is darker and more deeply furrowed than that of the sugar maple.

With their stunning display of fall colors in reds, gold and yellow, maple trees make a striking addition to the landscape. Gardeners have a host of selections useful as shade, specimen, or accent trees and smaller types work well in containers dressing up a porch or entranceway.

Many Types of Maple Trees

Maple trees belong to the genus Acer, and there are over 100 species of maple trees. They grace landscapes throughout the world and most are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves each fall, but a few native to the warm climates of southern Asia do not shed their leaves. Maples hail mostly from Asia, but some species are native to North America, Europe, and North Africa.

You can easily recognize a maple tree by the leaves. The leaves of all maples have five points. The leaf shape itself may be slender, almost lacy, like the Japanese maple, or wide in the middle like the Norway maple, but the leaves always have five points or finger-like projections. Most maples have green leaves during the growing season, but some may have red or ruby-bronze colored leaves.

With so many species of maple, it would be nearly impossible to list them all. The types of maples gardeners are most likely to encounter in the average home and garden center include:

Japanese Maple

A common maple found in many landscapes is the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). Japanese maples offer an almost infinite variety of forms due to the many cultivars and are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8. They can be trained into various shapes, left to grow on their own, or any combination in between, and do well inside containers. A typical Japanese maple can grow to be 25 feet tall, with some cultivars growing as large shrubs.

They prefer rich, well-drained soil and partially shady locations. If drought is a problem during summers in your area, be sure to water a Japanese maple well.

Japanese maple

The majestic Norway maple (Acer platonoides) is frequently planted along city streets, as shade trees in front of homes, and in parks nationwide. It’s a hardy and vigorous growing tree that can withstand all the indignities of being planted next to a road, as well as extreme heat and cold, droughts, car exhaust fumes, and road salt near their roots. The tree is considered invasive in some locations due to its widespread dispersal of seeds.

Plant Norway maples in USDA zones 4 to 7 in full sun or partially shady areas. They can grow up to 50 feet tall and they do spread out, so leave plenty of room between the Norway maple and nearby structures. Their roots stay close to the surface, so plant them away from sidewalks and foundations or you may find cracks developing in the cement. They’re very drought tolerant.

Norway maple

The native and deciduous sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is responsible for the production of mouth-watering maple syrup and is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8. Known for its glorious fall colors, the leaves turn spectacular shades of bright orange, yellow and red. This is also one of the tallest maples, growing up to 120-feet tall and 50-feet wide, so they need plenty of room to spread out.

They work well used as specimens, screening plants or a shade tree. It grows best in full to partial sun and in a variety of well-drained soils, but requires frequent water especially during hot and dry weather.

Sugar maple

Paperbark Maple

Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) gets its name from the rich, coppery-brownish bark that peels along the trunk and branches year-round making the tree an eye-catching specimen. The maple can take years to reach its mature height of 25-feet. Most trees have multiple trunks forming low to the ground, but can be pruned to have a single trunk. It has a deciduous habit and during fall the foliage turns a brilliant shade of red.

Paperbarks are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8 and grow in a sunny or partially shady location in well-drained, fertile soil. The tree doesn’t perform well in poor soils and requires frequent applications of water as it doesn’t tolerate drought conditions.

Acer Grisum paperbark maple Bark of a paperbark maple

Red maples (Acer rubrum) are native to eastern portions of the U.S. and tolerate warmer conditions than many maple types, being hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9. The tree quickly reaches a mature height of 75-feet and makes an attractive shade or specimen tree. Due to its habit of forming surface roots, plant the tree away from house foundations or sidewalks. Deciduous red maples are one of the first trees to announce the coming of fall and puts on a riot of color with its red foliage.

The tree tolerates a wide range of soils including wet locations and grows best in a sunny to partially shady location. As with most maples, it is susceptible to a host of diseases and pests.

Red maple

Silver maples (Acer saccharinum) have long, delicate leaves somewhat reminiscent of a willow, but with the characteristic five-points that mark the maple tree. This is a maple that needs moist soil and tolerates flood prone areas and is suitable growing near a creek or pond. The tree has weak wood and aggressive surface roots so plant away from septic tanks, house foundations or sidewalks. They can grow up to 70-feet tall and the deciduous silvery-green foliage turns a brilliant yellow color during fall. This native to North America grows well in a sunny to partially shady location in USDA zones 3 through 9 and is plagued by a host of disease and pest problems but many are rarely life threatening.

Acer Saccharinum silver maple Silver maple in autumn

Choosing a Maple Tree

When purchasing a maple tree be sure to check the tree for signs of disease or pests. Select a tree that hasn’t grown outside its container, which usually shows by roots growing out of the bottom drain holes. Tree’s that have outgrown their containers usually have a wrapping, circular root system and might not grow properly even when planted in the ground. Other things to consider include:

  • Root system: Many maples have aggressive surface roots and shouldn’t be planted close to the house, near septic systems or close to sidewalks or driveways due to damage.
  • Soil pH: In general, maples are tolerant of a wide range of soil pH levels from a very acid 3.5 up to a neutral to alkaline 7 and over.
  • Moisture: Most maples like the soil a bit moist but some, like the silver maple, demand it. If you live in a drought-prone area or you don’t want to spend the time and effort to water your trees, talk to your local garden center to choose a maple for you.
  • Space: For space-challenged gardeners, the Japanese maple is probably the best choice. It can be pruned to retain a smaller frame. Large trees must be set well away from homes so that falling branches do not damage roof lines.

Bring on the Color

If you are looking for a tree that adds brilliant color during the bleak days of fall and winter, then look no further than a maple. With proper planting and care, the tree will dress up the landscape for years to come and between the many types and cultivars, there’s a maple suitable for everyone’s desires.

Our neighborhood association would like to plant 12 to 15 maple trees along our streets this fall. Can you tell us which of the maples will make good street trees in Baltimore?

The four species of large maples that are commonly sold at local nurseries and garden centers are red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), and Norway maple (Acer platanoides). Each of them has a place in nature, but they are not all suited as urban street trees.

As its name suggests, the Norway maple is a northern European tree, and we would probably be better off had it remained there. It has escaped into our natural areas and is now on the Maryland invasive species list. It should not be planted.

The silver maple is a fast-growing native tree, but has soft, brittle wood that is prone to break. It is fine for parks and large yards, but does not make a good street tree.

I have seen some sugar maples planted along Baltimore streets, and they will grow for a time there, but they are not the best choice. They need a lot of space for their roots to grow and do not do well when they are confined by tree pits. Also, they are not very tolerant of high environmental stress or pollution.

The red maple appears to be the best maple for urban environments. Although it is not listed as being especially pollution tolerant, there are quite a few red maples growing well along Baltimore’s streets. I would recommend that you plant a red maple or a cultivar of red maple.

Bermuda grass has taken over portions of my front lawn and I would like to get rid of it. Can I strip it out at this time of year and put down new sod?

Bermuda grass is very difficult to get rid of because it grows by both above-ground runners (stolons) and underground runners (rhizomes).

You can strip out Bermuda grass at this time of year and plant new sod, however, the Bermuda grass will come back in the spring. Getting rid of Bermuda grass is a battle that requires vigilance and tenacity. It is very important to spot the new starts and to pull them before they spread. An herbicide like Roundup may help, but keep in mind that it will kill most other plants that it contacts. It is best sprayed in the spring when Bermuda grass first comes out of dormancy.


1. Are you planting trees with balled and burlapped roots? Whenever possible, the wire cage and burlap should be removed after the ball has been set in the planting hole. This will give the new roots the best opportunity to grow.

2. Are your neighbors bagging their leaves? Why not ask for them? Leaves make great mulch and are a great addition to the compost pile. Your neighbor saves a few plastic bags and you get free organic material.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site,

Pros and cons of the Autumn blaze maple tree

In the fall, most of us look forward to seeing the beautiful colors of the many trees we have in Northern Minnesota. It may also be a time of the year when one thinks about getting more of that red leaf color in our own yard.

One of the more popular trees that have been sold in the United States the past few years, and probably primarily for its fall color, is the ‘Autumn Blaze’ Maple tree. This is a tree that has terrific color and is quick growing, but a caller on our Master Gardener Hotline this past summer alerted me to a couple of concerns about this particular variety of maple cultivar.

The caller had planted this tree more than 10 years ago, but the tree had started to sucker new trees up from its roots and the tree had started cracking around one of the limbs. These are two of the problems of this fast-growing maple tree I have seen reported on various locations on the Internet.

I think the review about this tree I liked the most was by Karl Foord from the University of Minnesota Extension Service. In an online version of the University of Minnesota Yard and Garden News, he wrote that he has an ‘Autumn Blaze’ Maple tree in his yard. He indicated many in the tree trade consider these trees to be disasters due to their very fast growth and the frequence of becoming top heavy, with a tendency to be damaged or blown over by heavy winds or the weight of freezing rains. In order to avoid the top heavy problems, he recommends trimming them in accordance with a USDA Forest Service publication “How to Prune Trees.” The goal is to typically thin the tree in general, and the higher parts in particular or to trim off all of the lower limbs and up to a third of the higher limbs. This could probably best be done by an arborist, if one is available in your area, or would require an adventurous soul to climb the tree and trim it (with appropriate safety precautions).

The University of Minnesota Extension indicates the Autumn Blaze Maple produces better and brighter red hues when they have a lot of sunlight; this seems to indicate that if you do plant this tree looking for good fall colors, you should find an area in your yard that has plenty of sun. Different areas of a tree typically get different amounts of light, so different areas of the same tree can have leaves varying from red to orange to yellow. Different temperatures will also affect the colors so different years will likely produce slightly different colors.

The Autumn Blaze maple is a cultivar, not a natural variety of maple tree. It is a cross between the northern red maple and the silver maple. I am sure there are rewarding and good reasons to use this beautiful tree (if well-trimmed), but if I were to consider planting a maple tree in my yard, I would first consider the native red maple or sugar maple. I hope you have enjoyed the fall colors this year. Refer to the University Of Minnesota Extension Service website at for more information on horticultural topics.

Local Master Gardeners will again answer your questions on home horticulture. Call (218) 444-7916, leave your name, number and question and you will receive a return call.

Columnar Red Maple

Acer rubrum ‘Columnare’

  • deciduous
  • pyramidal or elliptical when young
  • becomes more spreading with age, eventually developing a more or less rounded or oval outline
  • a medium to large tree, 40′ — 70′ tall, but can be over 100′ tall
  • texture is medium
  • relatively fast growing


  • easy to transplant and establish
  • tolerant of many conditions and adaptable
  • prefers moist, acidic soils
  • tolerates occasional flooding and wet soils
  • on alkaline soils develops manganese chlorosis
  • full sun best for landscape development, but can tolerate partial shade

Columnar Red Map Cultivars/Varieties

Armstrong- An upright or fastigiate selection that grows to around 60′ tall and 15′ wide. Lacks consistent orange or red fall color. May be an A. rubrum x A. saccharinum hybrid (Acer x freemanii).

Autumn Flame- pleasant rounded habit as a young tree, growing to 60′ tall. Good fall color and smaller leaves than normal. May lack the hardiness of other cultivars.

Bowhall- pyramidal form, significantly wider than ‘Armstrong’ or ‘Columnare’. Fall color is yellow-orange with red highlights.

Columnare- Similar to ‘Armstrong’, but slower growing and more compact. Has better summer foliage quality and dependable orange-red fall color.

Franksred (Red Sunset)- Pyramidal to rounded form. Striking red fall color. Earlier color development than ‘October Glory’ and more cold hardy. Grows to 45 to 50′ tall.

Northwood (Northwood)- has a fine tolerance of harsh winter conditions. The crown is oval and the branches ascend upwards. Fall color may not be as effective as other selections, and some have suggested that the growth form may become irregular with age.

October Glory (October Glory)- Develops good red to burgundy fall color with dark green summer foliage. Colors late in October. May have limitations as far as cold hardiness and winter twig kill susceptibility. Oval shape, 40′ — 50′ tall.

A Study of Maples

Thoughts of autumn in New England, maple syrup, children throwing “tree helicopters”, wonderful shade, fall festivals. All these seem to embody the spirit of the maple tree. When our forefathers came to America they found the eastern forests full of tuliptrees, elms, chestnuts, red maples and sugar maples. They loved the maples for the same reasons we do, they’re beautiful and useful. Maple wood has long been used for flooring, baseball bats, paneling, furniture, and wooden toys. The sap flows proficiently in the early spring providing the basis for maple syrup, sugar, and candy. The large canopies of our native maples provide shade and the brilliant colors in the fall. Introduced maples can also add interesting features of peeling bark, contorted branches, and fall colors.

Paperbark Maple

In nearly every yard in the Great Plains, you can find a maple. Whether a shade tree or ornamental, we love our maples. And just like everything else, there are both good and poor maples for each site. In large park settings, silver maples are wonderful where they can spread their branches out, while wide open, full sun would be a poor choice for Japanese maples.

When you are picking out a new maple for your yard, be sure and figure in sun exposure, location of overhead lines, distance from the house, drainage slopes, and view from the house. In the nursery, ask about each cultivar, pros and cons, and even favorites of the help. Most landscape industry personnel have a favorite cultivar they would recommend to anyone. Look at the trunk of the tree before you pick and also if delivered. There should be no scars or gashes; if wrapped take off the wrap and check underneath for insects or rot. The canopy should be full of leaves, not sparsely foliated. Leaves should be dark green, red, or purple depending on the cultivar, with no black spots or rusty looking pustules. Check the trunk for 1/8” size holes from the bottom up-if found these could be borer holes, showing that the tree is weak already.

When choosing trees for a site, I recommend using a size guide, with large trees being taller than fifty feet, medium trees from twenty to fifty feet, and small trees less than twenty feet.

Large Maples

Sugar, silver, red, and red-silver crosses fall into the large maple category. Sugar maples have the best attributes of the group, with large, sturdy branches, great fall color, and winter hardiness. With dozen of cultivars on the market, the best ones for the Central Great Plains are ‘Caddo’, ‘John Pair’, ‘Legacy’, ‘Oregon Trail’, and ‘Fall Fiesta’. Each of these was selected for certain traits. I really like ‘John Pair’ which is a sport from ‘Caddo’ and has wonderful red to orange fall color, outstanding heat and drought tolerance, and is very sturdy in our winds. ‘Oregon Trail’ was selected by Grimm’s Gardens from a vote of the prettiest maples in Hiawatha, KS. It has dark, thick green leaves, a well-branched canopy, and brilliant orange fall color.

Silver maples can reach heights of one hundred feet along stream banks and river bottoms, but have been known for poor branch attachment and messiness of limb dropping. Their weakness is attributed to their rapid growth. They have beautiful yellow fall color and are an option for quick shade, if placed well away from the house, at least sixty feet.

Red maples tend to get lost in the Freeman hybrids, which are actually a cross between the red and silver maples. Red maples have a similar growth pattern of sugar maples, being slower and sturdier than silver. They are extremely drought tolerant and have wonderful red to orange fall color. Selections best for this area include ‘October Glory’ and ‘Burgundy Belle’. ‘Burgundy Belle’ was selected in Wathena, KS for its long lasting burgundy fall color.

Autumn Blaze Maple

Freeman hybrids are popular for their fast growth, bright fall colors, and availability in the market. ‘Autumn Blaze’ and ‘Autumn Fantasy’ are the best known of these hybrids. I remember when I worked in Manhattan, KS; we were planting ‘Autumn Blaze’ on every jobsite, in every new housing development. They are still a very commonly used tree, though I think sugar maples are better for new landscapes. The Freeman hybrids tend to have thinner bark when they are smaller, resulting in trimmer damage and insect damage if left unprotected by mulch and tree wrap. Wrapping your trees in the fall with tangle guard tree wrap will also prevent winter sun scald. Usually an issue in young fruit trees, sun scald can also damage thin barked maples and other trees.

Medium Maples

Maples in the twenty to fifty foot range are Norway, Shantung, Amur, Paperbark, and Boxelder. Of these, only boxelder maples are native to the United States. Boxelder maples can be found growing along streams and ponds, and have leaves that are often confused with poison ivy. However, there are few cultivars available, leaving boxelder maples as more of a specimen tree in arboretums than something desirable in the landscape.

Boxelder Maple ‘Flamingo’

Norway maples can be found extensively across the country and are even considered a pest along the east coast, where they reseed and grow quickly in the wild, overtaking native trees for food and space. Out in the Great Plains region though, we have little problem with that as our droughts and heat greatly affect the Norway maples. They actually need protection from larger trees to perform well here. ‘Crimson King’ is the most often seen of the Norway maples, with its dark, burgundy foliage and bright yellow fall color, it is a great medium tree with both ornamental and shade qualities.

Shantung maples are very tough, medium sized trees with great fall color and interesting leaves. The leaves are very similar to sweetgum, but the seeds do not cause problems like the sweetgum. They make great street trees, being able to withstand air pollution and drought. The most recognizable and hardest to find cultivar is ‘Mainstreet’.

Paperbark maples are greatly underused in the landscape, being a wonderful ornamental tree for shade gardens. They need protection from western sun and northwest winter winds, but will thrive in a shady spot under a larger tree. With peeling bark and great yellow to red fall color, this tree will surprise you in the depths of winter.

Amur maples are another medium tree with good fall color and nice growth habit. Being slightly vase shaped, these maples have red to orange fall color, and grow quickly for a tall hedge or grove of screen trees. ‘Flame’ is a good selection with fiery red fall color.

Small Maples

Small maples include Japanese, Fullmoon, Korean, and Trident. There some others as well; hedge maple, tartarian maple, and Vine Maple are wonderful trees but we have trouble growing them here in our conditions. Even amongst the Japanese maples we have trouble with the heat and cold tolerance. Our favorites for Japanese maples include ‘Bloodgood’, ‘Orangeola’, ‘Emperor I’, ‘Tamekeyama’, ‘Waterfall’, and ‘Bonfure’. But we often forget there is a world of Japanese maples out there to be tried in our harsh climate. With a little shade a protection, anyone who wants a Japanese Maple can have one. If you don’t have any shade, build a screen with 4×4’s and lattice. I have a weeping ‘Orangeola’ by my fountain and it is wonderful in the fall with reds and oranges. Don’t forget the green foliaged ones too; they may grow better and the fall color is just as wonderful as the red leaved ones.

Japanese Maple

Fullmoon maples are almost unknown to us in the central Great Plains. I have seen some in arboretums at Powell Gardens, Wichita’s Botanica, and Omaha, but you would be hard pressed to find one in someone’s landscape. They are really a wonderful looking tree, with largely palm like leaves, even more than Japanese maples. Fullmoon maples are actually hardier than Japanese maples; they just don’t have the red colors we want from those smaller trees. The Cutleaf Fullmoon maple is an amazing specimen, very fern like, with brilliant oranges in the fall. This little tree may grow to ten feet in height. It also needs some light shade and protection from the west/northwest exposure.

Korean maples are also similar to Japanese and Fullmoon maples; they have palmate, cutleaf foliage, and need some protection from the west/northwest. However, they are hardier still than the other two, and grow more upright than Japanese maples. With green leaves, they have orange and red fall colors.

Trident maple is also similar to Japanese maple, but can take the harsh winds and heat much better. Probably the hardiest of the small maples, this little tree packs a punch of color in the fall with its oranges, reds, and yellows. Give it a chance by adding it as a screen around patios, pools, and decks.

The maples I have briefly mentioned here are just some in a large genus of trees. You can find regionally specific trees to meet your needs and wants wherever you live. The maples listed above will work well in the central Great Plains regions which include Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, western Missouri, and SW Iowa. If you want to learn more about maples please feel free to research your favorites. Michael Dirr’s book, Hardy Trees and Shrubs is great reference on trees.

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