by Area Forester David H. Terwilliger
The red maple (Acer rubrum) is one of the first native trees to burst with color in February. You may recognize their seeds (samaras) as the little “helicopters” that spin to the ground when mature. The fall foliage is a brilliant red or orange.
These trees are sexually unique. The species is polygamo-dioecious, meaning some trees are entirely male, producing no seeds; some are entirely female; and some are monoecious, bearing both male and female flowers.
The red maple makes a great landscape shade tree. It is tough and grows on a variety of sites. One of its biggest contributions in the forested landscape is protecting water quality. The trees grow quickly, shading the stream channels and stabilizing the banks.