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A deciduous tree, occasionally over 100 ft high in America, with a trunk up to 13 ft in girth; and over 70 ft high in England, forming a rounded head of branches; bark greyish; branchlets glabrous, except when quite young. Leaves three- or five-lobed (the lobes pointed and somewhat triangular, the middle one usually the longest), from 2 to 5 in. wide, and often longer than broad, coarsely and unevenly toothed; upper surface dark green, glabrous, lower one blue-white and more or less downy, especially along the veins. Flowers appearing in March and early April in dense clusters before the leaves, at the joints of the previous year’s wood, or on short spurs of still older wood, rich red, each flower on a reddish stalk at first quite short, but lengthening as the flower and fruit develop. Fruits on slender drooping stalks 2 to 3 in. long; wings about 3⁄4 in. long, 1⁄4 in. wide, dark dull red spreading at about 60°.
Native of eastern N. America, and already in cultivation in England by the middle of the seventeenth century. It is a handsome and fairly common tree. When the first edition of this work was published the largest in the country grew at Bagshot Park, Surrey, which measured 80 × 91⁄2 ft (1907); the tallest there now is 65 × 101⁄2 ft (1960). At Westonbirt there is a specimen of 73 × 43⁄4 ft in Willesley Drive and two others in the collection approaching that size. At Wakehurst Place it is 65 × 61⁄2 ft (1966) and at Kew 52 × 53⁄4 ft (1960). The red maple is represented in the R.H.S. Gardens, Wisley, by an example 45 ft high, near the lake.
There is a considerable resemblance between this tree and A. saccharinum, and they are frequently confused. A. rubrum, however, is more compact and of slower growth; the leaves are not so much or so deeply cut, the down beneath them more fluffy, and the fruits are less than half as large. In the United States this maple produces most beautiful colour effects in autumn, the leaves turning scarlet and yellow. In this country it is not so good, but sometimes the leaves change to bright yellow, or dark brownish red, or occasionally red. It should be planted in a moist position.
specimens: Bagshot Park, Surrey/Berks., 70 × 121⁄4 ft at 3 ft (1982); Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 42 × 71⁄4 ft (1981); Ashburnham Park, Sussex, 58 × 81⁄2 ft (1978); Melbury, Dorset, Pleasure Gardens, 50 × 81⁄2 ft and, Valley, 58 × 73⁄4 ft (1980); Trewidden, Cornwall, 56 × 91⁄4 ft at 3 ft (1979); St Fagans, Cardiff, a fine tree, 77 × 7 ft (1980); Powis Castle, Powys, 58 × 71⁄2 ft (1981).
† cv. ‘Scanlon’. – A selection giving fine autumn colour and with a conical crown that makes it suitable for confined spaces. It is one of the many ‘tailor-made’ trees bred by E. H. Scanlon and Associates at Olmsted Falls, Ohio, USA.
† cv. ‘October Glory’. – A selection for autumn colour, raised in the USA by the Princeton Nurseries.
Cultivars such as the above are preferable to seed-raised trees, which can be very disappointing if autumn colour was hoped for.
A. pycnanthum – This is now in cultivation and growing well.
A. rubrum var. pycnanthum (K. Koch) Mak
A. drummondii Hook & Arn