- Size: tree up to 60-90 feet tall; leaves 2-4” wide.
- Color: red flower clusters; dark green leaves in summer that become red, orange, and yellow in fall; bark begins smooth in pale gray becoming darker and rougher with age.
- Habitat: various, including swamps, lowland forests, and rocky uplands.
- Where to observe: in several locations around the city including John Kieran Nature Trail in Van Cortlandt Park; Harlem Meer and East Drive near the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park; near Kissena Lake; along the Staten Island Greenbelt.
One of our region’s earliest flowering trees, the Red Maple welcomes spring with small reddish flower clusters, giving branches and twigs a red glow that makes one realize that cold weather is nearing an end.
Red Maples reach heights between 60-90 feet tall, and have smooth, pale gray bark that becomes darker and rougher as the tree ages. Decorating the elliptical crown after flower clusters disappear are dark green, deeply lobed, opposite leaves that measure 2-4” wide. The leaves provide stunning fall color in red, orange and yellow hues.
Besides the leaves, 1” long, red fruit called samaras form in late spring. After dropping from branches to the ground, the seeds contained within provide a meal for Eastern Cottontail Rabbits, Eastern Gray Squirrels, and deer.
Red Maples are so named since they feature red coloring all year — flowers, samaras, fall leaves, and even petioles, or leaf stems, have a red tinge in summer. They are fast growing and rather long-lived, able to reach 150 years. Plus, since the trees are generally tolerant of urban stresses, red males are found throughout the city in various habitats like swamps, lowland forests, and rocky uplands.
Look for these lovely trees along the John Kieran Nature Trail in Van Cortlandt Park, Central Park’s Harlem Meer or East Drive near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and several trails on Staten Island’s Greenbelt. In Queens, head to Kissena Park just south of the lake or even take a drive on the Grand Central Parkway near the Nassau County border.
- Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Michael A. Dirr, published 1997 by Timber Press.
- Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City by Leslie Day, 2007, Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation by Donald J. Leopold, published 2005 by Timber Press.
- New York City Trees: A Field Guide for the Metropolitan Area by Edward Sibley Barnard, published 2002 by Columbia University Press.
Have something you’d like to recommend? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2009 All rights reserved
NYC Nature News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.