Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the February 9, 2009 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi, USA:

Especially with sunlight backlighting them one of the most gorgeous signs of spring in the woods right now is the flowering Red Maples, ACER RUBRUM, as shown below:

Red Maple flowers, ACER RUBRUM

Those are male flowers, for maple flowers are "polygamodioecious," which means that individual trees are polygamous but chiefly dioecious -- which means that trees can bear only male or only female flowers OR both male and female flowers can reside on the same tree, BUT the most common condition is for trees to have only all male OR all female flowers. It's hard to think of a word whose definition incorporates more ors or buts than "polygamodioecious."

If you're in a part of the world where lots of Red Maples line the streets as they do in much of the small-town eastern US, it's fun to look for this "polygamodioeciousness" -- some trees all male, some all female, but sometimes you see a tree that's mostly one way but with a branch or two of the opposite sex.

In the photo you see about half a dozen male flowers emerging from a recently opened flower bud on a leafless twig. The black, oval items at the ends of slender, white threadlike things are pollen producing anthers dangling on their filaments. The red, deeply lobed, cup-shaped structures are red calyxes, the darker, thicker sepals alternating with paler, more slender petals. If you need to review terms like sepals and calyxes, check out my flower-interpretation page at http://www.backyardnature.net/fl_stand.htm.

Six kinds of maples -- six species of the genus Acer - - are listed for Mississippi: the Red, Silver, Sugar, Southern Sugar and Chalk Maples, plus the Boxelder, which also is a maple. Different varieties of the Red Maple are recognized. The picture's flowers can be recognized as belonging to a Red Maple because: the stems are not green like a Boxelder's; the flowers are emerging well before the leaves, unlike those of Sugar, Southern Sugar and Chalk Maples, and; the flowers bear petals, unlike Silver Maple flowers.

from the April 19, 2015 Newsletter, issued from Calhoun, McLean County, Kentucky, USA

Along with the Silver Maples, Red Maples also are fruiting, and in our area both species are very common. It can be fun to notice the differences between them because at first glance they look a lot alike. You might enjoy comparing our pictures of a fruiting Silver Maple with that of a fruiting Red Maple, ACER RUBRUM, shown below:

Red Maple, ACER RUBRUM, emerging leaves & samaras

In the above picture, notice that the papery wings of the Red Maple's samaras are narrower than those of the Silver Maple. Also, the Red Maple's leaves are much less deeply lobed than those of Silver Maples. Sometimes the Red Maple's stems and samara-type fruits are so vibrantly red colored that there's no doubt that you have a Red Maple, but most of our wild trees aren't that red.

In our bottomland area of rural western Kentucky, probably Red Maples are the most abundant of all tree species. In the fall, Red Maple leaves turn brilliantly scarlet, and it's a wonderful thing to see them in bright October sunlight beneath a deep blue sky. Happily. the species grows on many soil types and in various habitats all through North America's eastern forest zone.

Red Maples are such handsome trees that numerous cultivars have been developed from the wild stock, mostly in attempts to intensify the red color. 'October Glory' and 'Red Sunset' are among the most popular cultivars. Toward the species' southern limit, 'Fireburst', 'Florida Flame', and 'Gulf Ember' are preferred.

Red Maples can also be tapped for the production of maple syrup. However, once Red Maple buds expand, the flavor of their syrup becomes undesirable, and that doesn't happen with Sugar Maples. This means that Red Maples provide a shorter season for syrup production than Sugar Maples, so Red Maples seldom are tapped.