Mountain maple is a small, understory shrubby tree, 15-25 ft. tall, with multiple trunks and a mushroom-shaped habit. Hardy and adapted to partial shade, it hosts nearly 300 species of lepidoptera. Its bark is maroon-purple to reddish-brown and its dark, yellowish-green foliage consistently turns mottled-orange to bright-red in the fall. The Latin species name, meaning "spiked," refers to the long spike-like flower clusters that appear June-July, followed by pairs of winged seeds (samara), that range from pink to bright red and mature September into October.. Rabbits, beavers and deer browse the bark, and ruffed grouse eat the buds. Helpful at preventing erosion on streambanks and steep slopes. It prefers cooler north and east facing slopes in the understory of larger trees.