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A deciduous tree to 15(-25) m. Bark grey to pale brown devolping shallow, longitudinal fissures with age. Branchlets greenish to reddish brown, soon glabrous, often developing corky ridges. Buds small, ovoid, with four to six pairs of imbricate scales, brown. Leaves broadly pentagonal in outline, base cordate, (three-) five (-seven) lobed with broad sinuses, (1.5-)3–8.5(-11) × (1.5-)3–8(-10) cm, lobes apically obtuse or acute, margins entire to undulate, upper surface mid to dark green, pubescent at least at first, lower surface pale green, glabrous or pubescent throughout, with or without tufts in vein axils; petiole to 5 cm long, green, sometimes red above, pubescent, often grooved, broadest at base, exuding a milky sap when broken; autumn colours yellow. Inflorescence terminal, corymbose, somewhat erect, usually pubescent, ~10 flowered. Flowers yellowish green, 5-merous, usually dioecious, sepals and petals oblong, petals as long, or shorter than sepals, stamens eight, inserted in the middle or on outside of the nectar disc. Samaras 2-3.5(-4) cm long, wings spreading nearly horizontally. Nutlets flattened. Flowering April, appearing after leaves, fruiting in October. (van Gelderen et al. 1994; le Hardÿ de Beaulieu 2003; Güemes Heras & Sánchez Gómez 2015; Schulz 2018).
Distribution Albania Algeria Andorra Armenia Austria Azerbaijan Belarus Belgium Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Croatia Czechia Denmark France Georgia Germany Greece Hungary Iran Ireland Italy Liechtenstein Luxembourg North Macedonia Moldova Monaco Montenegro Netherlands Poland Portugal Romania Russia San Marino Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland Tunisia Turkey United Kingdom
Habitat Mesophilic mixed and Quercus woodlands between zero and 1600 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 3-5
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Awards Award of Garden Merit
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Acer campestre is one of Europe’s most widespread maple species, and the only one to reach as far west as Britain and Ireland. It extends south to North Africa and east to parts of western Asia. In Britain it is often seen in ancient woodlands and hedgelines and is a key component of many British countryside landscapes. Remnant wild specimens form part of the maple collection at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire. Although often considered to be a small ‘hedgerow’ tree it can achieve respectable sizes. The Tree Register (2020) records several specimens over 20 m in Britain and Ireland, and the tallest recorded was 25 m in 2007, at Kinnettles House, Angus (Johnson 2011). Many can have a large girth, 5-6 m being not uncommon, and possibly the result of former coppicing, but the massive 1625 cm girth of a tree in Hatfield Forest, Essex, measured in 2007, may be the result of ‘bundle planting’ where several individuals have grown together (Tree Register 2020).
The species is also one of the most adaptable and undemanding of all maple species in cultivation (Gregory 2011), and is one of the best British native species for autumn colour, painting many road banks bright yellow. It does well on most soils though prefers to grow on chalk in warmer areas (Gregory 2011). It is also tolerant of pollution, lending itself to widespread use as an urban tree, typically in the guise of one of the many named cultivars. It makes a neatly shaped tree at its best, though may also be little more than a shrub, it is also well used for hedging. Indeed, hedges at the former summer palace of the Austrian Emperors at Schönbrunn, Vienna, are formed mainly of Acer campestre (Bean 1976a). Though evidently versatile, the species can be prone to powdery mildew infection.
Morphologically it appears closest to the Japanese Acer miyabei and the Chinese A. miaotaiense. In comparison with A. miyabei, A. campestre has smaller leaves and more rounded lobe apices, and shorter petioles. From A. miaotaiense, the basal lobes of A. campestre spread more broadly and its lobe apices are blunter. Other similarly leaved maples lack the milky sap present in A. campestre (and all species of Section Platanoidea).
Numerous lower taxa have been described variously at subspecific and varietal rank, and van Gelderen et al. (1994) appear not to accept all of those they include accounts for. An up-to-date appraisal of the range of variation found across the range appears to be lacking, while plants are rarely determined at lower ranks. Stace (2019) states that so-called var. leiocarpum, with glaborus fruits, occurs in the wild in Britain, as well as the typical form, and that recent amenity plantings of Acer campestre are often of continental European origin, adding a divesrsity of morphology to the native population.
Collections from across the range are well represented in arboreta in both Europe and North America, with accessions from Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France and Russia at RBG Edinburgh (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 2018) and others from Iran, Ireland, Hungary and the Czech Republic at the Arnold Arboretum, Boston (Arnold Arboretum 2018). Some introductions made to Britain in recent years have at least in part, been made for experimentation in light of the projected (and evident) warming climate. TUDI 116 collected in northeastern Turkey in 2005 grows at Westonbirt, interesting not just for its geographic origin alone, but also as it is from this region that a cryptic species, A. orthocampestre, was recently described (Grimm & Denk 2014). WITA 63, collected in northern Italy near Lake Garda is also represented at Westonbirt. AHAL 330, collected in Spain, where in southern areas the species is somewhat rarer (van Gelderen et al. 1994), grows at Kew and belongs to this species rather than A. monspessulanum, as previously labelled.
The species is also well represented in cultivation by its cultivars, selected variously for form and foliage coloration, while numerous other names are mentioned by van Gelderen et al. (1994) as no longer being in cultivation. These are discussed as part of the relevant cultivar accounts below. Though the predominant coloration of the autumn foliage is yellow, it can also turn red (Clarke 1988). Intriguingly, Bean states that ‘according to Hegi’s Flora von Mitteleuropa, it is the downy-fruited form that usually colours red, the glabrous-fruited form always yellow.’ It is unclear how consistent this correlation is, however.
A dwarf bush of very close, compact growth, only a few feet high, and usually broader than it is high. Origin uncertain; first described in Gartenflora, Vol. 42, 1893, p. 329.
RHS Hardiness Rating: H6
A selection with golden yellow leaves, most apparent in spring, before they turn greenish yellow (Edwards & Marshall 2019). On leafing out it recalls Forsythia (van Gelderen et al. 1994; van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999) Its petioles and buds are reddish van Gelderen et al. (1994). Intolerant of much sun, it was selected from a tree near Postel, Silesia (now in Poland) and described and itroduced by R. Lauche in 1896 (van Gelderen et al. 1994; van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999).
RHS Hardiness Rating: H6
A shrub or small tree with leaves irregularly speckled white (Bean 1976; van Gelderen et al. 1994). Sometimes up to half of the lamina can be green (van Gelderen et al. 1994). Its leaves are smaller than the typical form of the species and it requires some protection from the sun (van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999). It was found and named at the Muskau Arboretum, now in Poland in 1864 (van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999). ‘Albo-maculatum’, ‘Albo-punctatum, ‘Albo-variegatum’ and ‘Argenteo-marginatum’ are all comparable forms believed to no longer be in cultivation (van Gelderen et al. 1994).
A form with leaves purple at first, before turning green (Bean 1976). It makes a small tree though is prone to powerdy mildew infection (van Gelderen et al. 1994). It was introduced and first distributed by Hesse’s nurseries, Germany, before 1899 (Bean 1976).