What is a Red Sunset Maple?

Dee Saale
Dee Saale

A red sunset maple, also known by its Latin name Acer rubrum, is a deciduous tree that is native to North America. It tends to grow quickly, particularly if it is in a moist environment. Many people plant the red sunset maple because it has bright red leaves during the fall and red flowers and fruit during the spring, making it a colorful addition to many landscaped lawns and patios.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

A rather large, hardwood tree, the red sunset maple can grow to heights of approximately 50 feet (15.2 m). It is typically considered more oval or elliptical in shape, since its branches can spread to about 35 feet (10.7 m) in diameter. The leaves, ranging in length from about 2 inches (5.1 cm) to 4 inches (10.2 cm), have serrated edges and are shaped like stars. The leaves are green during the spring and summer months and turn bright red during the fall.

If the red sunset maple is in a wet climate, it usually will grow taller than if it is in a drier location. In addition, it can grow in full sun, but may spread out more if it is planted in areas with at least partial shade. This deciduous tree does not have a preference toward its soil type, as long as it is not too alkaline. It can withstand pruning and is resistant to most pests as well. The main complaint that gardeners have regarding the red sunset maple is that its roots are capable of lifting sections of sidewalks and may impede lawn mowing.

The red sunset maple can provide shade to patios and porches. It also can add bright, autumn color to dull landscaping areas, making it a very popular street tree in residential neighborhoods. It also attracts birds, squirrels, and other animals that enjoy eating its seeds. The sap of the red sunset maple can be made into maple syrup, although it is of lower quality than maple syrup made from the sugar maple.

Since the red sunset maple transplants easily, it is a good tree to purchase from a nursery or other garden center. It typically does not grow well in temperatures with a high heat index, but otherwise it is fairly low maintenance and quite hardy. This variety of maple tree can be grown from seed as well, but it might take several years for it to reach a decent size.

Dee Saale
Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to wiseGEEK.

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