Orange County

Red maple selected as Hillsborough’s latest ‘Treasure Tree’

The Hillsborough Tree Board has selected a red maple as its latest Treasure Tree.

The tree, Acer rubrum, is located on the northwest corner of East Queen and Thomas Ruffin streets. It was selected for its intense scarlet color and red blooms that provide an early spring source of pollen for insects, including honey bees.

Upon flowering, the red maple forms fruits as winged nutlets, called samaras in a pair. The pairs of red or red-brown samaras are clustered on long stalks and spin to the ground as spring winds rustle the branches. The fast-growing tree often reaches more than 70 feet. Its names is a tribute to its red new branch growth, buds, flowers and spectacular fall leaves. Its spring leaves emerge green and remain so all summer.

One of the most widely distributed trees in eastern North America, the red maple is found from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to southern Florida and west from southern Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, and south through Missouri, eastern Oklahoma and southern Texas. Its success is due to its annual abundance of samaras and its ability to grow in a wide range of conditions from sunny to shady, wet to dry, and in soils with high and low levels of nutrients.

Native Americans used red maple bark as a remedy for hives and muscular aches. They also used it as an analgesic and as a wash for inflamed eyes and cataracts. Pioneers used an extract from the bark to make cinnamon-brown and black dyes.

Property owners with red maples are invited by N.C. State University and the N.C. Cooperative Extension to participate in a study over the next several years. The citizen science project A Tree’s Life was launched recently with the goal of understanding how local climate and urbanization affect tree growth. Email for more information.

Be on the lookout

The Hillsborough Tree Board encourages residents to look for trees in town with exceptional qualities, including superior beauty, size, age, historical value or any other exceptional interest.

Treasure Tree nomination forms are available on the Tree Board page of the Town of Hillsborough website at or can be obtained by contacting Public Space Manager Stephanie Trueblood at 919-296-9481.