Key identifying features.. Deep maroon,
leathery leaves in spring and early summer; pinch a leaf -- milky juice will be visible when the petiole is removed from the
stem; the inside of the stem is white. That's how you know it's a Norway maple cultivar.
Common name.. Royal Red Maple
Scientific name.. Acer platanoides
- 'Royal Red.'
Mature height.. 35 to 40 feet
Mature spread.. 25 feet
Form.. Oval when young, becoming rounded
and broad at maturity with a straight trunk and an excellent branching habit. This is a nice accent shade tree, the burgundy
leaves providing special interest in an otherwise all-green summer.
Fruit.. Deep burgundy samaras add to
the spring beauty of the tree.
Flowers.. Spring flowers are red, but
Foliage.. Deciduous; deep maroon leathery
leaves spring through summer, tinged green on the underside. The color deepens to brown by September; fall color of light
brown is not of any special interest. Leaves are simple, alternate, 5-lobed and up to five-inches wide. As with all Norway
maples, milky juice is visible when the petiole is removed from the stem. The inside of the stem is white.
|Samara birth, May 2006
Growth rate.. Slow, very slow. See the
growth chart for pictures.
Culture.. Requires full sun to partial
shade and a rich, organic soil. Will not grow in sandy or clay soils.
Best time to prune.. Late fall through
late winter, but I often find myself pruning the lowest branches in late spring (for clearance). So far, this has not caused
any serious problems.
Of special note.. When this tree was
first planted, it took a long time for leaves to emerge, leafing out a full month after the other trees in the area. I thought
it was dead. When the leaves finally did break out that year, the tree was attacked by aphids and all the leaves shriveled
up and died. I treated what tiny bud pieces were left with a soap wash and cayenne pepper, and repeated this several times
that year. I really thought the tree was dead or dying. How could it possibly live with no leaves for a whole year? But, I
am a patient soul who refuses to give up to a fault. I left the tree in place and lo-and-behold, the following spring -- GLORIOUS
|Underside of leaves in late summer
Julie's Comments.. (May
2006) This red-leafed Norway maple is grafted onto the root stock of sugar maple. Norway maples are notorious for problems
with root-girdling (roots encircling the trunk, eventually cutting off the nutrient supply). While this tree is very similar
to Crimson King Norway maple, the Royal Red cultivar is rumored to be hardier, and with brighter colors, probably because
of its relationship to the hard-wooded sugar maple.
Planting date.. May 1999.
I ordered this tree bare-root from the Miller Nurseries catalog. It arrived in the mail in a long-flat package, looking literally
like a five-foot long, one-inch thick stick with some old dead hair on one end. I found it hard to believe I was holding a
living thing! I immediately filled a large trash can with water and let the "tree" soak for a day, then dug a hole on a rain-drenched
afternoon and positioned the twig, hair side down, in the ground, with the grafting site above grade. Stakes were a necessity
since the tree never would have stood by itself. Honestly, I didn't think it would ever produce leaves, but a few months later,
leaves did in fact emerge. The tree is planted about a foot away from the decaying root system of a river birch that used
to live in this spot, but had to be cut down after an ice storm bent it over so far that it broke in half. But that beautiful
river birch is still giving life, in the sense that those decaying roots are providing rich nutrients for this Royal red maple.
This tree is very slow-growing, but it has received an enormous amount of tender loving care in my yard, never having been
allowed to be bothered by the dog or the kids and always receiving a little extra water from the garden hose in the driest
summer months. Five years after planting that little twig, (2004) the tree was 12 feet tall with the trunk measuring 3.5 inches
DO OVER?.. Yes, as long
as I wasn't in a hurry for a shade tree.