Trident Red Maple

Trident_Red_Maple_jpgMore than 100 species of the maple family (Aceraceae) are known to exist around the world, and about 15 maples occur in North America.  The maples are often split into two groups based on the qualities of their wood.  These are called the “soft maples” and the “hard maples”.  Red Maple and sliver maple are soft maples.  Sugar maple is a hard maple. This variety of Red Maple (triobum) refers to the 3 lobed leaf.  The Common Name, Trident Red Maple, also refers to the shape of the leaf. Red Maple is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring.  The samaras are primarily dispersed by wind, appearing as “whirligigs” or like tiny helicopters.  The buds and samaras provide a source of food for gray squirrels and deer browse the seedlings.  The wood is used for rough lumber, pallets, furniture, pulpwood and firewood.  The sap can be made into syrup, but sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is a better source. Red Maples are common in damp to wet soils, swamps, bottomlands and in sandy soils and rocky uplands.  It is often planted in urban areas for its brilliant fall color and quick growth. The bark contains tannins and North American Native Americans used an extract of the bark to treat eye conditions.  The bark can also be used to produce a black dye for worsted and linen cloth.


Swamp Maple, Scarlet Maple, Soft Maple


Acer rubrum var. trilobum






Woody Shrub


40 to 75 feet


Early May to June


Nova Scotia to Florida ~ Statewide except in dry parts of Pine Barrens


Mid March to late April


Leaves opposite, 2-4 inches long, 3 lobed, lobes triangular and toothed, dark green above and lighter below, turn to yellow (not brilliant red like other Red Maples) in fall ~ Bark smooth and gray when young, become darker and thicker with age, appearing somewhat shaggy ~ Flowers yellow tinted to bright red, appear before leaves ~ Fruit 1 inch long samara, often red and maturing to brown on slender stalk, appear in Spring