Iconic Tree of the East Coast from Maine to Florida

When I was a girl, we lived in a small town in Western New York.  Outside my second floor bedroom window was a large tree that I loved.  The squirrels and birds were always in it, and throughout the year, from spring until winter, it changed.

In the spring, it had cute pink helicopter seeds that spiraled down and in the summer the birds and squirrels made their nests there.  In the fall, it changed color from gold to red and in winter, the bare branches would fill with snow, creating a winter wonderland.  I thought to myself, “I wish I knew the name of that tree…”

Little did I know that many years later, I would become an ISA Certified Arborist, and know the names of a great many trees, including this one!

Maple trees, I discovered, make an appearance all along the east coast of the United States, even into South Florida.  Acer rubrum it turns out, is one of our most resilient trees, which makes it perfect to plant as we tackle climate change issues.

Acer rubrum

Red Maple is both ubiquitous and useful.  Here is a short list of some of its many attributes:

  • Historical and ethnobotanical significance
  • Source of Maple Syrup and other allied industries
  • Important source of food for bees, birds and other mammals; one of the first trees to flower in spring.
  • Source of shade and beauty, especially fall color

Easy to grow and adaptable to many climates

Red Maple has a unique ability to grow according to the water available.  In wet areas, it grows a more shallow root system and in drier areas, it forms a tap root.  The innate intelligence of this species is remarkable.

A Tree for all zones

Acer rubrum can grow from minus 40 degrees in the northernmost part of its range to 90’s in the southernmost part, where I live now.  It can freeze, or not, be wet or not, thrive in clay or sand, and withstand many extremes.  This quality of adaptability makes it a perfect tree to plant as we live through climate change.

Be careful how you prune this tree

While this tree is able to withstand many extremes, it does not tolerate sloppy pruning, such as stub cuts, or tears.  It is slow to compartmentalize (heal), and because of this, bad pruning can cause disease issues.  So, be sure to apply good pruning techniques when cutting on this tree, and give it good structural pruning when young to reduce codominance.

Even in Florida

These photos were taken recently in South Florida on the campus of UF/IFAS Extension in Davie.  The cooler nights (50s! ) actually stimulated this tree to change color. Over the holidays, I drove from Pompano Beach where I live, to North Carolina, and noticed that the only tree with color along the I-95 corridor was the Maple tree, in shades burgundy to red.

Plant Maple trees native to your area of the United States.

Even though the genus and species are the same, there are different genotypes in the North and the South and if you plant one, be sure to purchase one from your area to ensure its adaptability.

Beautiful, useful, and easygoing, you just gotta love a tree like this.

Maple trees are deciduous even in South Florida, making the seasons more visible here.



Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert

Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.

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