Autumn Flame Red Maple – Acer rubrum ‘Autumn Flame’

Autumn Flame Red Maple / Family Aceraceae
Height:  45 to 50′.  Hardy in zones 4-8 [2]
A fast-growing maple native to North America, renowned for its spectacular early fall color change.

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Autumn Flame Red Maple fall foliage
Acer rubrum ‘Autumn Flame’

The outstanding ornamental characteristic of this cultivar of Red Maple is the consistently good red to yellow fall color lasting several weeks. It is often one of the first trees to color up in autumn, and it puts on one of the most brilliant displays of any tree. Leaves persist longer in this cultivar than the species. Can be trained to grow multiple trunks.

The tree makes the best growth in wet places and has no other particular soil preference except chlorosis may develop on alkaline soil where it also grows poorly. It is well-suited as a street tree in northern and mid-south climates in residential and other suburban areas but the bark is thin and easily damaged by mowers. Irrigation is often needed to support street tree plantings in well-drained soil in the south. Roots can raise sidewalks as silver maples can but they have a less aggressive root system and so they make a good street tree. Surface roots beneath the canopy can make mowing difficult.

Red Maple is easily transplanted and usually develops surface roots in soil ranging from well-drained sand to clay. It is not especially drought tolerant, particularly in the southern part of the range, but selected individual trees can be found growing on dry sites. This trait shows the wide range of genetic diversity in the species. Branches often grow upright through the crown forming poor attachments to the trunk. These should be removed in the nursery or after planting in the landscape to help prevent branch failure in older trees during storms. Select branches with a wide angle from the trunk and prevent branches from growing larger than half the diameter of the trunk. This will help reduce storm damage. [2]

This lovely multi-trunked Autumn Flame grows next to Lake Marmo on the Morton Arboretum‘s west side.

A number of other cultivars are listed. Due to graft-incompatibility problems which cause the tree to break apart, preference should be given to cultivars produced on their own roots. In the northern and southern end of the range, choose cultivars with regional adaptation.

The cultivars are:
Armstrong – upright growth habit, almost columnar, somewhat prone to splitting branches, 50 feet tall.
Bowhall – upright growth habit, branches form embedded bark, graft incompatibility on grafted trees.
Gerling – densely branched, broadly pyramidal, about 35 feet tall when mature.
October Glory – above average fall color, excellent tree, retains leaves late, 60 feet tall.
Red Sunset – does well in the south in USDA hardiness zone 8, the best cultivar for the deep south, oval, 50 feet tall.
Scanlon – upright growth habit; Schlesinger – good fall color, rapid growth rate; Tilford – globe-shaped crown. [2]

Autumn Flame Red Maple Fall Foliage

Pests: Aphids infest maples, usually Norway Maple, and may be numerous at times. High populations can cause leaf drop. Another sign of heavy aphid infestation is honey dew on lower leaves and objects beneath the tree. Aphids are controlled by spraying or they may be left alone.

If not sprayed, predatory insects will bring the aphid population under control. Scales are an occasional problem on maples. Perhaps the most common is cottony maple scale. The insect forms a cottony mass on the lower sides of branches. Scales are usually controlled with horticultural oil sprays. Scales may also be controlled with well-timed sprays to kill the crawlers. Oyster shell scale is also common.

Diseases: Verticillium wilt symptoms are wilting and death of branches. Infected sapwood will be stained a dark or olive green but staining can’t always be found. If staining can not be found do not assume the problem is not verticillium wilt. Severely infected trees probably can’t be saved. Lightly infected trees showing only a few wilted branches may be pulled through. Fertilize and prune lightly infected trees. This treatment will not cure the problem but may allow the tree to outgrow the infection. Girdling roots will cause symptoms which mimic verticillium wilt. Scorch may occur during periods of high temperatures accompanied by wind. Trees with diseased or inadequate root systems will also show scorching. When trees do not get enough water they scorch. Scorch symptoms are light brown or tan dead areas between leaf veins. [2]


  1. Autumn Flame Maple, Morton Arboretum acc. 386-83*8, photos October 12, 2010 by Bruce Marlin
  2. Edward F. Gilman & Dennis G. Watson, USDA Fact Sheet ST-43 “Acer rubrum Autumn Flame
  3. The Morton Arboretum, “Autumn Blaze Maple
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Family Aceraceae – Maples
The Maples are some of our most familiar and beloved trees.  Most are native to the far east: China, Japan, Korea, Manchuria. Maples produce a distinctive winged fruit called a samara, also commonly known as helicopters or whirlybirds.
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