Autumn Fantasy Maple is a Freeman Maple cultivar with rapid growth, good branch angles, consistent red fall color, and a wide site tolerance. This selection can be considered an improvement on Autumn Blaze® Maple due to its improved branching habit and more rapid growth. In fall, the medium green leaves of Autumn Fantasy® Maple turn to a vibrant ruby-red.
Autumn Fantasy Maple is an excellent choice for a shade tree where soil conditions are variable. This selection tolerates a wide range of soil and moisture conditions, although best growth will occur where there is consistent moisture, good drainage, and ample nutrition. Fall color is consistent and not dependent on site or weather conditions, making this tree a reliable performer for fall color.
The branching and dense canopy of Autumn Fantasy Maple makes good habitat for birds and small mammals. As the tree has low seed production, don’t expect too many granivorous (seed-eating) birds to visit for food. Young twigs are soft and palatable to deer, so be aware that low branches may be nibbled on in fall and winter.
As Autumn Fantasy® Maple is a rapid grower, you should make sure you have a young tree pruned every 3-5 years to maintain a central leader. With age you’ll likely want to raise the canopy to at least an 8’ height. Consult with a local arborist to determine the best maintenance program for your new tree to ensure it meets your goals and enjoys a long, healthy life.
Like all new trees, Autumn Fantasy Maple benefits from regular watering during the first year. More water will encourage faster growth, but the tree is drought-tolerant once established.
Its thin bark makes winter protection critical, even as the tree increases in caliper. Make sure you use a trunk wrap from Halloween to Memorial Day to prevent trunk damage by deer.
We invite you to check out the Arborist For Hire lookup at the Wisconsin Arborist Association website to find an ISA Certified Arborist near you.
Freeman maples are relatively trouble-free in the landscape, and Autumn Fantasy is no exception. You may notice some small red galls on the leaves caused by insect feeding; this is purely cosmetic and should not be treated.
All Maples are susceptible to Verticillium Wilt. If you observe branch death (flagging) in summer during a drought, contact a local arborist to inspect the tree. There is no cure for Verticillium Wilt, but infected trees can be preserved through regular watering and minimizing other stresses. The best solution is to plant resistant species. If you know your area has Verticillium Wilt, stay away from Maples.
Tar Spot (Rhystima spp.) is a frequent occurrence on Norway, Silver, and Freeman maples in Wisconsin. These black spots form on the leaves in late summer/early fall and may cause premature leaf drop. This is a purely cosmetic issue and will not affect the health of the tree long-term. We do not recommend using a fungicide to treat this disease. If you feel that Tar Spot is problematic in your landscape, you should make sure you remove all leaves after leaf drop and burn them or dispose of them off-site. This will prevent old leaves from re-infecting the tree next year.
Freeman Maples are noted for their fast growth, uniform habit, and reliable fall color. Since the introduction of the original Autumn Blaze® Maple (US Plant Patent 4864) in 1980, these trees have been heavily planted. While the trees have beautiful fall color, please consider diversity when selecting them for planting. If you or your neighbors already have a Freeman Maple cultivar in the landscape, it’s recommended to pick a different, non-maple species. Remember, Emerald Ash Borer and Dutch Elm Disease were problematic because we relied on only one tree for our boulevards. Let’s not make the same mistake with Freeman Maples.
Autumn Fantasy® Maple was developed by Willet Wandell of Wandell’s Nursery in 1990. It was discovered in Urbana, Illinois as a landscape tree. Of particular note was the dense canopy, good scaffold limbs, rapid growth rate, and brilliant red fall color. Its leaves have deeper sinuses (cuts) than other Freeman Maple cultivars and more-closely resemble those of a Silver Maple.
From a tree perspective, the oval-rounded canopy of Autumn Fantasy® Maple pairs well with trees that have vase-like habits (such as elms) or coarse textured trees like Oaks and Kentucky Coffeetree. You can use the consistent ruby-red fall color to your advantage when it comes to shrub selections- Ninebark, Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle, Miss Kim Lilac, and Pink-a-licious™ Fritsch Spirea offer good complimentary colors to the deep red of Autumn Fantasy® Maple in September and October.