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Acer rubrum & Acer sacharum

Red Maple & Sugar Maple

Family Aceraceae

Syrup, sugar, water. The sap can serve as good drinking water in areas
where water is contaminated. Boil sap slowly to produce syrup (it takes 30 to
40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup). Further boiling produces sugar.


Growth Form: Large tree.

Leaves: For red maples, 6-10cm (2.5-4in) long, opposite, usually with 3 (sometimes 5) pointed lobes, irregularly toothed, long petiole, hairy and whitish beneath. For sugar maples, 9-14cm (3.5-5.5in) long, opposite, usually with 5 palmate lobes, each with a few long teeth. Edges do not droop.

Flowers: Tiny, hang in clusters, flowers in late winter and early spring. Reddish in red maple, yellow-green in sugar maple.

Autumn leaves of red maple (Hannah Ramer, Punkapog Bog, MA)
Autumn leaf of red maple
Green leaf of sugar maple (Hannah Ramer. Brandeis University, Waltham, MA)Green leaf of sugar maple

Sugar maple keys (Hannah Ramer. Brandeis University, Waltham, MA)
Sugar maple keys

Fruits: Paired keys, forking, brownish. Sugar maple keys are slightly longer, with roundish seed.

Buds: For red maple, reddish. For sugar maple, pointed and brown.

Bark: For red maple, light gray and smooth becoming scaly. For sugar maple, grayish, with deep vertical ridges.

Habitat and Range

Red maple occurs in wet soils, especially along rivers and stream banks, swamps from Minnesota to Newfoundland and south to Florida and Texas. Sugar maple occurs in forests and woodlands on mesic soils in valleys and uplands throughout Manitoba to Newfoundland, south to North Carolina and Kansas. Some disjunct populations in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina.


Sap should be collected in early spring, when daytime temperatures are above freezing and nighttime temperatures are below.

Sugar maple bud (Hannah Ramer. Brandeis University, Waltham, MA)
Sugar maple bud
Sugar maple bark (Hannah Ramer. Brandeis University, Waltham, MA)
Red maple bark

Bark of red maple (Hannah Ramer. Ponkapog Bog, MA)
Red maple bark

Click here for instructions on how to make maple syrup!

Fun Facts

The red maple is also call “scarlet maple” and “swamp maple.” Sugar maple is also called “hard maple,” and “rock maple.”

Sugar maples are also important commercially as lumber.

The red maple has the greatest north-south range of all tree species on the east coast.

All maples produce sap that can be used as outlined above, however sugar maples produce the best and the most sap, each tree potentially producing between 5 and 60 gallons each year.

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