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Woody > Acer > Acer glabrum > Acer glabrum var. neomexicanum

Acer glabrum

var. neomexicanum

New Mexico Maple

Origin:  Western North America
            Mike's Opinion

this is Mike


The Acer glabrum- var. neomexicanum is an interesting native shrub or small tree with some striking visual colours, and promotes efficiency to the surrounding landscape. Often multi-stemmed, this plant begins its life as a fast growing, smooth red barked double samara bearer. The double samara develops early on with a tinge of crimson in the roughly 2.5 cm long wing containing one seed, as it matures it develops a light coffee brown colour. In the autumn time this plant shows off sensational reds, yellows and oranges and develops good sized buds that normally attract the inhabiting species once it’s time to eat. This plant has a high ornamental value not only for its tolerance to both sunny and shady conditions, but also because of its usefulness in supporting the life around it. It requires moderate to low water consumption and will succeed throughout drought and high temperatures, while both moist and xeric soils will give it the possibility of plant life. All the while, its deep, wide-spreading root system acts like a binding instrument for the loose soil; controlling the erosion of barren slopes. Another use for this tree comes in the form of soil erosion control. These pros make it a popular maple for re-vegetation projects and roadsides. “Acer glabrum var. neomexicanum (or neo-mexicanum, as sometimes spelled) is the large-leaved, 3-leaflet phase of Rocky Mountain maple. It was originally named by E.L. Greene in the journal Pittonia in 1903. Greene was quite the taxonomic splitter, though he had an eye for unusual variation. It was later made a variety (or subspecies, depending on the taxonomist) in the 1930s.”- Walter Fertig. This plant has been known in the past to be an effective remedy to nausea, using a wood and bark decoction method to aid its users. It is also said to have been used in assisting many Native American tribes including Okanagan-Colville and the Thompson in developing cooking utensils and bows for hunting.

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


Sapindaceae (Aceraceae)
Tree (deciduous)
USDA Hardiness Zone
5 - 10
Canadian Hardiness Zone
2b - 6b
RHS Hardiness Zone
Temperature (°C)
Temperature (°F)
5 - 7 m
4 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
This is a deciduous shrub or small tree with slim, young, reddish twigs that eventually turn grey. The bark is glabrous to the touch at a young age, but may slightly lessen as it matures. This plant's splendid colours of red, orange and yellow convert from a dark emerald-green in the autumn. Lacy green wings of the double samara fruit appear to have a crimson-tinge, but over time develop a light coffee-brown colour.
Acer glabrum var. neomexicanum is typically admired for its beautiful autumn colours and low maintenance. This beneficial plant is often used in re-vegetation projects because of its wide-spreading root system; the binding of loose soil particles and the aid in controlling the erosion of barren slopes make it a key asset in many restoration projects in the west. This plant can also be found on roadsides and on steep-cut slopes.
This plant prefers to be grown in well-drained, moist soils on the slopes of mountains and canyons and has a high tolerance for both sunny and shady sites. Neomexicanum requires little to moderate water usage in order to grow, and will have a better success rate when planted in somewhat shaded areas. Soil preference is slightly acidic to slightly basic, but generally speaking, it doesn’t get effected too much by the pH levels varying too much.
Neomexicanum is an upright shrub or small tree with a narrow, elliptical crown reaching to the skies above.
ID Characteristic
Has a smooth red bark that ages into a grey, slightly less smooth texture. The leaves usually come in a group of three to five, giving the tree a palm-like appearance. Beautiful autumn colours give this tree its eye catching characteristics, and red buds attract wildlife for food.
A common disease amongst this plant is the Damping Off disease. This can be avoided by making sure that the seeds are not too moist. The buds are consumed by deer, moose, and elk alike, because of their high nutritional value. The leaves can also suffer from chlorotic mottling; this is most likely a sign of iron deficiency.
This plant has a broad choice in habitat, because it can flourish in both the wet and dry land. In most cases however this plant can be found in the well-drained soils of mountain slopes and canyons. This plant can also be found growing at high altitudes of 2,804 m.
Bark/Stem Description
Its journey as a young, slim twig begins with a red colour and a smooth texture. Over the course of its maturity, the red colour fades to greyish-brown.
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
The Acer glabrum has pointy red buds that are usually about 1 cm long. These buds serve as nutrition to deer and elk during the long winter season.
Leaf Description
The coarsely-toothed double-serrate leaves on this plant are lobed 3 - 5 times, giving it a palm-like appearance. In length, they usually measure anywhere from 3.8 - 11.3 cm, while in width they span between 2.5 - 7.5 cm.
Flower Description
Contains separate male and female flowers. These flowers are usually imperfect and show themselves in the spring. Dangling clusters of flowers with 4 rounded petals, and 4 narrow, green sepals are some of their characteristics.
Fruit Description
This V-shaped winged achene-type fruit occurs in clusters. It grows to approximately 2 cm in length and contains one seed. Early on, it has a tinge of crimson to it, but as it ages and before the wind carries it onward through its journey, a light coffee-brown colour takes over the wings.
Colour Description
This maple is well-known for its spectacle of ravishing autumn colours. They turn from a deep emerald-green colour to orange, red and yellow colours that bless the leaves and the eyes. The winged achene begins as a lacy-green with a touch of crimson, which over time turns to a light-brown. The smooth bark turns from a reddish colour to grey.
Texture Description
The wood is smooth while young, development of coarser lenticels occur with age, while the leaves also carry a smooth feel to them.
Notable Specimens
Acer glabrum var. neomexicanum specimens can be found in Idaho: Franklin County, at the Caribou National Forest.
In order for propagation to take place, the fruit should be gathered while green, but mature enough to ensure healthy crops, and sown directly into cold frames. During this stage, the seed will develop a partially thick coat; this will typically delay germination for up to two years. Soak the dried seed in water for twenty-four hours and then place into trays for four months of stratification, followed by four months of cold stratification. A layering method is also typically effective for this plant for propagation. Bending a nice shoot into a “U” shape and anchoring the bottom “U” into a few inches of soil should produce a new plant in a year’s time.
Ethnobotanical Uses (Disclaimer)
Historically amongst Native Aboriginals throughout North America, the Acer glabrum has been a common species in contributing beneficial aid; from bows and spears for hunting and survival, to providing remedy from nausea. Bark decoction is a past common practice in using this plant as a medicine. This plant has been known in the past to be an effective remedy to nausea, using a wood-and-bark decocting method to aid its users. It is also said to have been used in assisting many Native American tribes, including Okanagan-Colville and the Thompson in developing cooking utensils and bows for hunting.
Allan C. Keller (1942) The American Midland Naturalist, 1942, University of Notre Dame, page(s) 491-500