Of all the tree species beloved for their color, the maples are the most well-known. The
sugar maple, (Acer saccharum), is second best in color to the all-time favorite – the red maple
(Acer rubrum). These two native maples are often confused with the much smaller, non-native
the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). Japanese maples are native to Japan and are a much
smaller, more decorative tree.
According to Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org), the red maple is tolerant of
many soils, grows at a medium to fast rate and can grow as tall as 60-feet with a 40-feet spread.
The red maple is available in many cultivars that are grown for specific growth characteristics
and leaf color. For a little extra money, you can purchase a cultivar of red maple and know
exactly what your tree will look like, its size and shape, and what to expect with fall leave color.
These qualities and ease of transplanting make red maple an ideal choice for planting. Some of
the favorite cultivars include ‘Armstrong’, ‘Autumn Blaze’, ‘Autumn Radiance’, ‘Autumn
Glory’, and ‘Brandywine’.
Here in Morgantown, we have a few of these cultivars. The cultivar ‘Brandywine’ is
planted on High Street. ‘Brandywine’ red maple is a smaller tree, growing to a height of 25 feet.
It has a symmetrical, oval form, with deep green summer foliage. Its bark is light grey, smooth
when young, and darkening as the tree matures. Autumn coloration begins with leaves gradually
transitioning to a brilliant red. ‘Autumn Blaze’ red maple can be found in White Park near the
ball fields and the middle school. ‘Autumn Blaze’ red maple has a rounded oval shape. It is a
much larger tree that is notable for its rapid growth rate, and fiery red fall color. ‘Autumn Blaze’
is one of the first trees to display fall color.
“Planting a tree is a long-term commitment” says Scott Cline, who is an ISA certified
arborist and Morgantown’s Urban Forester. “It’s about selecting the proper tree to fit the
location, planting it correctly, making sure there is adequate growing space, proper pruning, and
most importantly, providing water and mulch so the tree can grow.”
This article was written by the Morgantown Tree Board’s Communications Committee
with special thanks to Marchetta Maupin, Urban Landscape Director, for her support and
expertise. The following photos were taken by Donna Foster unless stated otherwise.
The red maple cultivar ‘Brandywine’ is planted on High Street in Morgantown, WV. As fall arrives, it will begin to transition to a brilliant red. This photo was taken September 16th, 2022.
This ‘Autumn Blaze’ red maple can be found in White Park near the ball fields and the middle school. This red maple cultivar is one of the first trees to display fall color.
Our native red maple is celebrated for its lovely fall call throughout much of the eastern United States where it is often found in woodlands, low lying areas and forests. Photo Credit: Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org