Herb: Red Maple

Latin name: Acer rubrum

Family: Aceraceae (Maple Family)

Medicinal use of Red Maple:

The bark has astringent properties and has been used as an application for sore eyes. The inner bark was used according to one report. An infusion of the bark has been used to treat cramps and dysentery.

Description of the plant:


30 m
(98 feet)

to April

Habitat of the herb:

Usually found in swamps and uplands, it also occasionally grows on dry rocky hillsides and sand dunes.

Edible parts of Red Maple:

The sap contains sugar and this can be used as a drink or be concentrated into a syrup by boiling off the water. The syrup is used as a sweetener on many foods. This species only yields about half the quantity obtained from the sugar maple (A. saccharum). It makes a good maple syrup although the yield is comparatively small. It can be harvested in late winter, the flow is best on warm sunny days following a frost. The best sap production comes from cold-winter areas with continental climates. Inner bark - cooked. It is dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread. Self-sown seedlings, gathered in early spring, are eaten fresh or dried for later use. Seeds - cooked. The wings are removed and the seeds boiled then eaten hot. The seed is very small, about 5mm long, and is produced in small clusters.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves are packed around apples, rootcrops etc to help preserve them. The boiled inner bark yields a purple colour. Mixed with lead sulphate this produces a black dye which can also be used as an ink. The dye is dark blue according to another report. The wood is used to make basket splints. This species can successfully establish itself in recently cleared areas and partially open woodlands. It can therefore be used as a pioneer species to speed the regeneration of woodland. Wood - not strong, close grained, hard, very heavy. It weighs 38lb per cubic foot. The grain of some old specimens is undulated, this gives beautiful effects of light and shade on polished surfaces. The wood is commonly used for making furniture, turnery, pulp, etc.

Propagation of Red Maple:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the spring in a cold frame. It usually germinates immediately and by the end of summer has formed a small tree with several pairs of leaves. Stored seed quickly loses its viability. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours and then stratify for 2 - 4 months at 1 - 8C. It can be slow to germinate. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on until they are 20cm or more tall before planting them out in their permanent positions. Layering, which takes about 12 months, is successful with most species in this genus. Cuttings of young shoots in June or July. The cuttings should have 2 - 3 pairs of leaves, plus one pair of buds at the base. Remove a very thin slice of bark at the base of the cutting, rooting is improved if a rooting hormone is used. The rooted cuttings must show new growth during the summer before being potted up otherwise they are unlikely to survive the winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Usually found in swamps and uplands, it also occasionally grows on dry rocky hillsides and sand dunes.

Known hazards of Acer rubrum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.