Red maple is a small to medium tree with a long, clear trunk and a narrow, irregular crown.
Leaves are opposite, simple, 2–5 inches long, with 3 or 5 lobes; middle lobe is longer than side lobes; base of lobes is V-shaped; lower surface whitish, margins toothed.
Bark is light gray and smooth at first, becoming darker, furrowed, and flaky on older trees.
Twigs are slender, smooth, reddish, and shiny, with pale pores; bud tip is blunt.
Flowering: March–April; red, with 4–5 small petals.
Fruits are red, in winged pairs, appearing May–June.
Varieties: Drummond's red maple (Acer rubrum var. drummondii) has the lower surface of leaves densely hairy and whitish; it lives mainly in bottomland forests in the Bootheel and along sinkhole ponds in the southeastern Ozarks. Also, there are many horticultural varieties and crosses of red maple found in nurseries and in planted landscapes; most were developed for brilliant fall color.