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: [].
ABBREVIATION : ACERUB SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : ACRU COMMON NAMES : red maple scarlet maple TAXONOMY : Red maple is a member of the maple family Aceraceae [97]. 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. [97]. Many varieties and forms have been identified, but most are no longer recognized. The following varieties are commonly recognized: Acer rubrum var. drummondii (Hook. & Arn. ex Nutt.) Sarg. Acer rubrum var. trilobum Torr. & Gray ex K. Koch Several forms, differentiated on the basis of various morphological characteristics, are commonly delineated [38,86]: Acer rubrum f. tomentosum (Tausch) Siebert & Voss Acer rubrum f. rubrum Acer rubrum f. pallidum Red maple hybridizes with silver maple (A. saccharinum) under natural conditions [64]. A hybrid product of this cross has been identified: Acer X freemanii E. Murray [64]. LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Acer rubrum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Red maple is one of the most widely distributed trees in eastern North America [97].  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 [64].  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 [97].  It is cultivated in Hawaii [102]. ECOSYSTEMS :    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 STATES :      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 : NO-ENTRY 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     16  Aspen     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     38  Tamarack     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     57  Yellow-poplar     59  Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak     61  River birch - sycamore     62  Silver maple - American elm     63  Cottonwood     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    100  Pondcypress    101  Baldcypress    103  Water tupelo - swamp tupelo    104  Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay    108  Red maple    109  Hawthorne    110  Black oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY 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 [42] but is often overlooked as a wood resource [100].  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 [97].  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 [19].  Irwin [51], however, reported that red maple is an important fall and winter moose browse in parts of northeastern Minnesota. PALATABILITY : Red maple is one of the most palatable white-tailed deer foods in Minnesota [31]; 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 value [22,28,29]. COVER VALUE : Maples provide cover for many species of wildlife [78].  The screech owl, pileated woodpecker, and common flicker nest in cavities in many species of maple [44].  Cavities in red maples in river floodplain communities are often well suited for cavity nesters such as the wood duck [36].  Riparian red maple communities provide autumn roosts for blackbirds in central Ohio [75]. 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 [41]. 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 [97].  Direct seeding in old-field communities has not been successful [97]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Red maple is characterized by showy fruits and flowers and colorful fall foliage [25].  Red maple was first cultivated in 1656 [78], 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 [4]. 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 [6], but ambient air pollution can damage the foliage [57].  Red maple persists in industrially damaged woodlands near Sudbury, Ontario, despite the accumulation of heavy metals in the soil [52]. 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 [27].  Red maple usually grows rapidly after heavy cutting or high-grading, and crop tree release may be a low-cost management option [27].  Mechanical thinning of clumps can produce good-quality sawlogs on good sites [26].


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 [49]. 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 [49].  Samaras are red, pink, or yellow [38]. 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 [78] and produces good or better seed crops over most of its range in 1 out of 2 years [39].  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 [1].  Seed is wind dispersed [97]. 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 [1]; some seed survives within the duff and germinates the following year [30,61]. Seedling establishment:  Seedbed requirements for red maple are minimal [42], and a bank of persistent seedlings often accumulates beneath a forest canopy [97].  Seedlings may number more than 11,000 per acre (44,534/ha) [69] and can survive for 3 to 5 years under moderate shade [73]. Vegetative regeneration:  Red maple sprouts vigorously from the stump, root crown, or "root suckers" after fire or mechanical damage [32,96,97].  Lees [62] 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 [97].  Mroz and others [77] 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 [49]. It occurs on a variety of wet to dry sites in dense woods and in openings [25].  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 [97].  In much of the Northeast it grows as an overstory dominant only in swamps and other wet sites [65].  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 [97].  It develops best on moist, fertile, loamy soils [27] but also grows on a variety of dry, rocky, upland soils [49].  Red maple grows on soils derived from a variety of parent materials, including granite, shales, slates, gneisses, schists, sandstone, limestone, conlgomerates, and quartzites [97].  It also occurs on a variety of lacustrine sediments, glacial till, and glacial outwash [53]. Elevation:  Red maple grows from sea level to 3,000 feet (0-900 m) in elevation [97].  Elevational ranges by geographic location are as follows: 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 [97].  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 [97] but generally does not persist in late successional stages [65].  In even-aged stands which develop after clearcutting, red maple is commonly overtopped by faster growing species such as northern red oak [65].  In a few locations in the Southeast, it grows as a climax dominant in wet-site communities [76]. Red maple commonly increases after disturbances such as windthrow, clearcutting, or fire [97].  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 [97].  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 [97]. 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 [9].  Fruit matures in spring before leaf development is complete [39,97]. Generalized fruiting and flowering dates by geographic location are as follows: Location             Flowering           Fruiting        Authority Adirondack Mtns.       Apr                  June         Chapman &                                                          Bessette 1990 Blue Ridge Mtns.      Feb-Mar               ----         Wofford 1989 FL Panhandle          Jan-Apr               ----         Clewell 1985 Gulf & Atlantic       Coasts          Jan-May               ----         Duncan & Duncan                                                           1987 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 &                                                          Cunningham 1981 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 [32].  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 [34].  Red maple regeneration in the Pine Barrens is favored in the absence of fire [34]. In upland oak forests of central Pennsylvania fire suppression has led to the replacement of oaks by red maple, beech, black cherry, and sugar maple [71]. Red maple has also increased in the absence of fire throughout much of the Southeast [11].  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 [47].  As a result, restoration to presettlement conditions would be "a very long-term process" [47]. Red maple sprouts vigorously from the root crown after aboveground vegetation is killed by fire [87].  Seedling establishment may also occur [87]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex    off-site colonizer; seed carried by wind; postfire yrs 1 and 2


SPECIES: Acer rubrum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Red maple is intolerant of fire; even large individuals can be killed by moderate fires [97].  Postfire mortality is relatively high for saplings, but because bark becomes thicker and more fire-resistant with age, mortality is much lower for sawtimber [98].  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 [48].  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 hardwoods [48]. Bark:  Bark of red maple is intermediate in resistance to fire [46]. Mean number of seconds required for the cambium to reach 140 degrees (60 deg C) (often considered a lethal temperature) are as follows [46]:         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 [97].  Trees top-killed by fire often sprout vigorously and assume increased prominence in postfire stands [85].  Seedlings also sprout and may produce dense sprout clumps following fire [93]. 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 [74] observed red maple sprouts 2 weeks after a July fire in Nova Scotia.  Red maple establishes through seed from June through August [33].  Postfire increases in stem density commonly promotes red maple's dominance within a stand [68]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Red maple is reportedly common on burned lands in the Maritime Provinces [82], boreal forests on northern Minnesota [12,51,96], and hardwood forests of the Allegheny Mountains [50].  However, it is rarely observed on burned sites in Rhode Island [14] and was reported to be greatly reduced by prescribed fire in northern Indiana woodlands [18]. 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 [103] study for details on the fire prescription and fire effects on red maple and 6 other tree species.
The following Research Project Summaries provide further information on prescribed
fire use and postfire response of plant community species, including red
maple, that was not available when this species review was originally
Protein content of red maple commonly increases on burned sites[22].
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 [22].  Dills [101] reported,
however, that burning had no effect on the nutritive content of red
maple browse.


SPECIES: Acer rubrum
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