The Society of Municipal Arborists 
is proud to present
The 2004 Urban Tree of the Year
Autumn Blaze Maple
(Acer x freemanii 'Jeffersred')
Autumn Blaze® Maple is known for its superior fall color, unexcelled growth rates, leafhopper tolerance and the adaptability to an extremely wide range of climate and soil conditions. This cultivar will give amazing results with high rates of nitrogen and it has been reported to reduce splitting problems associated with maples due to verticullium wilt.
Autumn Blaze® Maple is in the Family Aceraceae and is one of many Ace rubrum x A saccharainum hybrids. Selected by the late Glenn Jeffers of Jeffers Nursery in North Central Ohio, the tree has been developed by Poplar Farms, Inc. of Batavia, IL. Autumn Blaze® is a name that is registered under the plant patenting system in the U.S. as PP #4864 which was taken out in 1982.
This spectacular tree has become one of the most sought after trees in the U.S. and is quickly becoming popular in other countries. Autumn Blaze® is a tree that has vigor and adaptability of the silver maple with the beauty and strength of the red maple. In fact, the Autumn Blaze® Maple was chosen "Tree of the Year" in 1997 by Iowa's Nursery and Landscape Association.
Autumn Blaze® Maple is a hybrid maple developed from crossing the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) with the red maple (Acer rubrum). The silver maple and the red maple both have questionable merits as reliable shade trees; however, the Autumn Blaze® Maple has been engineered to provide the excellent qualities of both its parents. The Red Maple parent contributes a well-balanced branching habit and the fall color. From the Silver Maple it inherited increased tolerance to drought and poor soil conditions. It can be used in what are considered 'tough' sites, such as high clay content, wet sites and dry sites.
Autumn Blaze®, for many, is a superior alternative to rubrum, Silver, Sugar or Norway maples. Of the cultivars 'Armstrong', 'Armstrong Two', 'Autumn Blaze®', 'Indian Summer', 'Marmo' and 'Scarlet Sentinel', Autumn Blaze® develops the best red to red-orange autumn coloration. Related cultivars of Acer x freemanii also include A. 'Autumn Fantasy', A. 'Celebration', and A 'Morgan'.
Autumn Blaze® can adapt from the frigid hardiness of Zone 3 in the north to the warm, humid south of Zone 6. It inherits its hardiness from A. saccharinum to survive in dry and frost prone regions.
The leaves resemble those of silver maple, being opposite, simple, palmately lobed with toothed margins. Five-lobed but not as deeply cut as A. saccharinum. Although it retains the characteristic silvery lower surface. The deep red veins and brilliant color are derived from A. rubrum. The summer color is a rich, medium green with excellent scarlet, orange and red fall color that persists later than other maples. Leaf size ranges from 8-10 cm.
Autumn Blaze® also has excellent winter color. The rapid growth produces longer branching in one season than rubrum maples. This new growth good red color after leaf drop and persists until the following season, adding interest and color to the winter landscape.
The Autumn Blaze® has the ability to grow in most soils. Autumn Blaze® Maples have been planted in all soil types including heavy, wet muck, fine loam and heavy clay, performing well in all soils. Autumn Blaze® has better heat and drought tolerance than rubrum maples. This beautiful and adaptive tree, at maturity, will have an oval to rounded crown with strong ascending branches and a well-organized central leader.
Growing 50 to 60 feet tall and 30 to 40 feet wide, the Autumn Blaze® Maple's rate of growth is significantly faster than a red maple. This tree is not as susceptible to storm damage as the silver maple because it has superior crotch angles and branch habit. The Autumn Blaze® Maple makes an outstanding specimen tree, but it can also be used in clusters or stands.
The unexcelled growth rate allows Autumn Blaze® to especially thrive on high levels of nitrogen fertilizer. Under good conditions it can grow three feet or more per year.

The flowers are insignificant, female, and are nearly seedless, which means there is no mess to clean up or unwanted seedings to remove. The bark is smooth, whitish when young, becoming furrowed with dark ridges as it ages. Retains the bark of A. saccharinum.
Autumn Blaze® does not have any significant insect or disease problems at this time. It is resistant to leafhopper damamge but is susceptible to bacterial blight. It is fast growing, but can suffer some from iron chlorosis like the pure Silver Maple.
Autumn Blaze® should be watered deeply and infrequently during prolonged dry periods with maintaining a good layer of mulch. If desired, it is best to feed established trees in late winter, depending upon the region. Broadcast evenly under the canopy of the tree, it has a shallow root system with some surface roots and the think bark is easily damaged.
Propagation is generally best done by rooted cuttings. When ordering this tree, specify they be "own root" stock. Delayed grafting incompatibility will be a problem on any budded trees particularly budded A. rubrum and A x freemanii.
This tree transplants readily, but no in autumn in cooler climates. It is best planted in full sun with well-drained, moist fertile soil. Dig the hole three to five times as wide as the root ball but no deeper, and place the top of the root ball even with the soil profile. When planting in mid-summer, form a 4-inch berm outside the root-ball area. This berm should be able to hold five gallons of water. After planting, water deeply and apply mulch. Remove the berm after the first year. Be sure to give the tree plenty of above and below ground space to grow. It can work well as a street tree. The red fall color has been spectacular on this maple variety and has withstood some heavy snow loads that have decimated silver maple populations.
Autumn Blaze® Maple may require pruning in the fall and the spring, due to its fast growth. Proper pruning, including taking out dead wood, weak branches and interior spindly growth to allow more sunlight penetration, which is critical to the long-term health of all tress and resident safety.
In addition to clearing out deadwood and weakened limbs that could fall in a high wind or under the weight of ice and snow, twice-yearly pruning also helps to minimize damage from large trucks and reduces the possibility of injuries from low limbs or reduced visibility from streetlights. Winter pruning even helps the trees to better withstand next spring's inevitable onslaught of disease and insects. Shape your tree with strong branches outward and thin out extra, smaller side shoots, plus, of course, any suckers or growth coming from the base or the lower trunk.
The tree is intermediate between red and silver maple in branch breakage. It is definitely better than silver, but requires watching for narrow crotch angles and eliminating problems by pruning when young.

Autumn Blaze® Maples grow in a very uniform shape that makes pruning easy, either in production fields or the municipal landscape. The tree can be pumped into an upright shape or to form a broad spreading crown.

Here are some quotes that describe this excellent urban tree:
"Growth rate is approximately four times greater than Acer rubrum. Leafhoppers have not disfigured this cultivar."
Professor Edward R. Hasselkus, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Horticulture

"Autumn Blaze® Maple is a recent introduction that lives up to its name, exhibiting brilliant and long lasting orange-red fall color. This widely adaptable tree appears to thrive in cold as well as hot areas, showing a remarkable tolerance for varying climates. It ranked among the best performers for growth and fall color display in the Southeastern U.S. This Acer freemanii hybrid deserves to be more widely planted as it combines the best characteristics of its parents, Red and Silver Maples."
J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.

Autumn Blaze® Maple combines the best qualities of its ancestors. It has brilliant, long-lasting orange-red fall foliage on a dense, upright shade tree. Rugged and well-adapted to most soils, it has improved resistance to damage from both leafhoppers and verticillim wilt. It thrives in much warmer climates extending well into the deep south and west. Its classic form with an oval head and ascending branching habit make it an ideal lawn tree, front yard accent, or municipal street tree.
2004 Urban Tree of the Year - Profile
Botanical Name: Acer x freemanii 'Jeffersred'
Common Name: Freeman Maple
Cultivar: Autumn Blaze Maple
Family: Aceraceae
Parentage: Acer rubrum x A. saccharinum, selected by Glenn Jeffers in late 1960's
Plant Patent: #4864
Height: 50' - 60'
Spread: 30' - 40'
Form: Oval form with ascending branches
Bloom Period: Very early
Flower: Reddish, in clusters, female
Fruit: Nearly seedless
Summer Foliage: Rich, medium green in summer; deep lobes, smaller than silver maple
Autumn Foliage: Bright orange-red in fall, persistent fall color
Winter Color: New growth retains red color for winter interest
Bark: Gray, thin bark is easily damaged when tree is young
Habitat: Grows well throughout the U.S. and Canada
Culture: Rich, well-drained soil, tolerates urban pollution and dry conditions better than parents. Tolerates most sites and alkaline soil but prefers acid conditions.
Editorial Comments
By Leonard Phillips, Editor of City Trees
The future of municipal arboriculture is in the trees that we plant. As professional arborists, we must all keep up with the trends. While flowering trees are the current rage, it wasn't that long ago that small trees were very important and I think this trend will continue at a secondary level for many years to come. Trends are also very regional. Cultivars are extremely important on both coasts but are sharing their popularity with native trees in the middle part of the U.S. and Canada. You must keep yourself up to date on your plant material as well as your planting techniques. I think it is important to know that the numbers and uses of cultivars are going to be more important than ever in the future. I see as many as 20-30 new trees coming into production every year and I expect at least 1/3 of them to be suitable for planting along our city streets.
City Trees conducts the Urban Tree of the Year competition every year to illustrate the importance of selecting the right trees for the right spot. The intent of this program is not to indicate that this tree is the perfect tree that can grow anywhere but to make municipal arborists aware of this tree and that they should use it if they have a site suitable for it. The Urban Tree of the Year also provides extra publicity for excellent trees that deserve planting more often. Our cities often contain too many of the common maples and ash that are cheap, easy to grow, and short-lived. A quality urban tree is a better investment for the future of the city. Cities last forever, so why plant a tree that will live an average of only seven years?

The Autumn Blaze® Maple was selected as this year?s Urban Tree of the Year by all of the participants to our survey that appeared in the July/August issue of City Trees. Autumn Blaze® Maple placed well ahead of the three second place winners - Turkish Hazelnut Corylus columa; 'Prairie Spire' Green Ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica; and American hophornbeam, Ostrya virginana.
Once again, many of the survey responses indicated that they were not familiarity with many of these trees. Municipal arborists must keep up with the latest cultivars if they expect their urban forests to continue to thrive and diversify. It is not that hard to do. During my many years as a municipal arborist, I selected half of my trees for planting as the 'tried and true' while the other half were trees that sounded good and I thought were worth while. Most of them were. The few that didn't make it, died of natural causes and were replaced.

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