Red Maple

red maple

We can’t leave the most common tree in Eastern North America out of our parade of beautiful fall foliage. Here’s red maple (Acer rubrum L.), a generalist species that is adaptable to a wide range of environmental and ecological conditions. We find it in maple-black gum swampy areas on top of the plateau and in rich mesophytic forests in the coves. A pioneer species, it’s one of the first to invade old fields after cultivation has ceased. There’s a lot about this plant that’s red — the flowers in early spring, followed by the fruits (samaras). Often the leaf petioles are red. (TN State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath likes to say that like all good mountaineers they’ve got “red necks” .) And, of course, the beautiful red color in the fall, which is exceeded in brilliance by only its cousin the sugar maple.

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