Home » Habitats » Red Maple Swamp

Red Maple Swamp

This forest is found in very wet, very low elevations across Lewisboro. Wetland soils make up about 20% of Lewisboro and that is a good proxy for the percentage of red maples growing in town. A fine example of an extensive red maple swamp is found along Route 121 at the Rose Preserve. Red maple trees are dominant along with white ash, tulip, elm, shagbark hickory and tupelo (black gum) trees. Understory trees include hornbeam (ironwood) and shadbush (serviceberry). Shrubs include spicebush, nannyberry viburnum, silky dogwood and sweet pepperbush. The ground cover has skunk cabbage and tussock sedges nearly everywhere, along with jewelweed, Jack-in-the pulpit, and nettles (wood, false and stinging). Ferns are also common and include sensitive, marsh cinnamon and, occasionally, royal ferns.

Unfortunately,  red maple swamp habitat is deteriorating as ash and elm trees die from ash wilts and Dutch elm disease and the emerald ash borer. The newly sunlit openings are allowing invasive barberry to carpet the floor of these areas across Lewisboro and the region, out-competing native plants vital for the survival of wildlife.

Red Maple Swamp in Fall
Red Maple Swamp in Fall

What you can do

To protect red maple swamps, homeowners can continue to support wetland regulations and can plant new, disease-resistant elm trees to bring back this once common, majestic tree.

Red Maple Trees in our Forests

On the other hand, red maple trees are becoming more common in our forests. Their thin bark had made them very susceptible to fire damage in the past and since we now control forest fires, red maples are thriving. They are not a very long-lived tree, so they are not often used in landscaping but their brittleness makes them important to wildlife since their broken limbs provide nesting opportunities for many cavity-dwelling birds such as bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, tree swallows, certain flycatchers, brown creepers, wood ducks, kestrels, most owls and all wood peckers.

Dead red maples also provide nesting opportunities for colony breeding birds like the great blue heron, which have not nested in Westchester until beavers recently flooded the red maple swamp on Route 121 in Bedford, killing the red maples and creating ideal platforms for the heron.

Which Lewisboro Preserves Have this Habitat?

A Critically Important Habitat

The wetlands filter water, removing pollutants and sediments from drinking water supplies in our aquifers, reservoirs and watersheds. Wetlands also control flooding by slowing, absorbing and storing water runoff. Wetland trees and shrubs intercept and slow rain water and shade and cool the water beneath them, protecting wetlands. Because of their dense tree and shrub cover and the availability of water, wetlands provide habitat for a wide variety of birds and other wildlife, including places to feed, roost, nest and travel between other areas along wildlife corridors.


Wood and spotted turtles and many other types of reptiles and amphibians depend on wetlands as do many birds including barred owls and red shouldered hawks. Birds and other wildlife tend to flock and travel in wetlands in winter, perhaps because water keeps temperatures milder and perhaps because wetlands tend to have denser understory for cover and foraging.