Autumn Radiance Red MapleAcer rubrum 'Autumn Radiance'
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Acer rubrum 'Autumn Radiance'
Outdoor Growing zone
The Autumn Radiance Red Maple is a beautiful native shade or forest tree, that has intense fall colors of orange-red to crimson. It colors two weeks or more before most other red maples, so extending the season for fall color. It grows quickly into a large tree over 40 feet tall and 35 feet wide, with a dense, rounded crown. The leaves are classic maple leaves, and the maple ‘keys’ are small and quickly break down, without making a mess. Grow this tree as a shade tree on a lawn or enrich existing woodland areas with it. A row makes a great boundary marker.
Plant the Autumn Radiance Red Maple in full sun for the brightest colors, and it is completely hardy even in zone 4. It grows best in acidic or neutral soils, and it tolerates almost all conditions, from moderate drought to flooded soils. It grows best in moist soils, but once established it is moderately drought resistant. It has no serious pests or diseases, and this easy tree is a great choice for your yard.
Choosing a shade tree can be a big decision. In a smaller garden it will become a more and more dominant feature, and in larger ones, where there may be several, they set the tone of the garden. It is worth putting some thought into what you choose, and a good place to start is by considering a native American tree – the red maple. Not only is this an excellent large shade tree, with a good growth rate, but its fall coloring is among the best there is. The American red maple has green leaves that color beautifully in the fall – at least, some trees do. Like all wild plants, some individuals are more beautiful than others, and for spectacular fall color in a red maple, that set all the leaves on fire, not just at the ends of the branches, you cannot do better than grow the variety called the Autumn Radiance Red Maple.
The Autumn Radiance Red Maple is a large deciduous tree, with a rounded crown, that will in time reach 40 or even 50 feet in height, with a spread of 35 to 40 feet. It has an expected life of nearly a century, or even more, so when you plant a tree like this, it is for life. Young branches have gray-brown bark, but it doesn’t take long before the trunk adopts a beautiful silver-gray color which lasts for many years, until in old age the bark becomes more rugged and dark-gray, with long vertical splits and breaks. The main branches are strong and upright, creating a dense, rounded crown that looks good even on a relatively young tree. The tree is moderate to fast-growing, adding 2 or 3 feet a year in its early years, slowing to a foot or so as it matures.
The leaves of the Autumn Radiance Red Maple are up to 5 inches long, and divided into three lobes, or sometimes five. They are very similar looking to the leaves of the more well-known sugar maple. In spring they are bright green, quickly maturing to a rich, darker green that is cooling and attractive. This tree casts a deep shade, so it is lovely for a lawn, where your family can gather in its cooling shadow. Sometimes we don’t want to wait forever for fall colors to come, and this tree begins to color at least 2 weeks before most other red maples do. When the change happens, it happens all over the tree, right into the deepest leaves, and the stunning rich orange-reds to crimson-reds that develop are simply spectacular. In spring you may notice small, bright-red clusters on the branches before the leaves. These are the flowers, and they add an attractive note once you learn to see them. This tree does produce the typical maple ‘keys’, but they are small, just an inch long, and not woody, so they break down quickly, disappear into the lawn, and they don’t make the mess we often see with other kinds of maple.
The Autumn Radiance Red Maple is an easy tree to grow, although it does have a few simple requirements. Plant it in a sunny place for the best color and remember its final size when planting. Do not plant closer than 20 feet from a building or property line, and don’t plant underneath overhead wires. It will grow in most soils, and it even grows well in wet soils, including areas that are sometimes flooded. Settlers used to call it ‘swamp maple’ for its ability to grow in wet areas. It will also grow in drained soil, and once established it is moderately drought tolerant, but don’t plant it in areas that are always dry and hot, or its growth may suffer. The only serious limitation on this tree is its need for acid or neutral soils. Alkaline soils and limestone don’t suit it, and it may develop leaves that are yellow with green veins when the soil is too alkaline. This often doesn’t happen unless the soil is very alkaline, so in practice, this tree will grow on most soils – if there are healthy maples of any kind in your area, it will almost certainly be fine. It normally has no serious pests or diseases, and it’s a tough, adaptable tree that even grows in urban situations and poor soil. If you should need to prune or trim your tree – which is not normally needed – then do this in summer, not at the ‘usual’ pruning season in late winter or early spring. This tree can bleed large amounts of sap if cut at that time.
The red maple, Acer rubrum, is native to North America, from Newfoundland to northern Florida and eastward into Texas. It grows in many different places, which is a tribute to its adaptability. The variety called ‘Autumn Radiance’ was developed in the 1970s, perhaps as a selection from a group of seedlings, by Schichtel’s Nursery, Springville, New York, and it was originally called ‘Van’s #1’. In the early 1980s Bailey Nurseries, a large wholesale tree grower based in St. Paul, Minnesota, acquired it, and gave it the current name. This is a wonderful shade tree, and always in high demand. We have a limited supply which will not be available for long, so order now and plant a tree – it’s a great feeling.