Acer platanoides L.

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Credits

Dan Crowley (2020)

Recommended citation
Crowley, D. (2020), 'Acer platanoides' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/acer/acer-platanoides/). Accessed 2020-08-14.

Genus

Common Names

  • Norway Maple

Infraspecifics

Other species in genus

Glossary

included
(botanical) Contained within another part or organ.
section
(sect.) Subdivision of a genus.

References

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Credits

Dan Crowley (2020)

Recommended citation
Crowley, D. (2020), 'Acer platanoides' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/acer/acer-platanoides/). Accessed 2020-08-14.

A deciduous tree to 30(-38) m. Bark greenish grey when young, turning darker and fissuring longitudinally with age. Branchlets glabrous, purplish red or greenish, turning darker and woody by the end of the first year. Buds, ovoid, with five to eight pairs of imbricate scales. Leaves broadly pentagonal in outline, base cordate to truncate, five (-seven) lobed, (8-)10–25 × (5-)7–14(-16) cm, lobes apically acute or acuminate, margins remotely dentate with acuminate teeth, upper surface bright green, lower surface glossy green, glabrous except for tufts in vein axils; petiole 6–20 cm long, green, glabrous, often grooved, broadest at base, exuding a milky sap when broken; autumn colours yellow to purple. Inflorescence terminal, corymbose, erect, 10–30 flowered. Flowers yellowish green, 5-merous, usually dioecious, pedicels long and slender, sepals oblong to obovate, petals oblong to ovate, as long, or longer than sepals, stamens eight, inserted in the middle or on outside of the nectar disc. Samaras 3.5-5(-7) cm long, wings spreading nearly horizontally. Nutlets flattened. Flowering April, before unfolding leaves, fruiting in October. (Rehder 1927–1940van Gelderen et al. 1994Güemes Heras & Sánchez Gómez 2015). 

 

Distribution  AlbaniaAndorraArmeniaAustriaAzerbaijanBelarusBosnia and HerzegovinaBulgariaCroatiaCzechiaEstoniaFinlandFranceGeorgiaGermanyGreeceHungaryIranItalyLatviaLithuaniaNorth MacedoniaMoldovaMonacoMontenegroNorwayPolandRomaniaRussiaSan MarinoSlovakiaSloveniaSpainSwedenSwitzerlandTurkeyUkraine

Described by Bean (1976, p. 223) as ‘one of the handsomest, hardiest, and most vigorous of introduced trees’, Acer platanoides has unsurprisingly also become one of the most planted trees, particularly in urban settings. Hugely versatile and reliable on almost any soil, it is also tolerant of atmospheric pollution. It is most attractive in early spring, when dense corymbs of yellow-green flowers are produced in abundance. Its leaves turn a good butter-yellow or orange in autumn, though its coloration scarcely matches the consistent tones displayed by many of its relatives at that time.

The widely used common name of Norway maple is bemoaned by Mitchell (1996), as its occurence in Norway forms only a tiny part of its vast native range, not unlike Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) which extends east as far as north westernmost China! Mitchell does not, however, offer an alternative, and at least it has not suffered the same confusion as its fellow European native A. pseudoplatanus, whose sycamore moniker is referable also to Platanus occidentalis of eastern North America and, with the variant spelling ‘sycomore’, the Ficus of biblical fame.

The earliest record of its cultivation in Britain dates from 1683, when George Sutherland included it in a list of the trees he moved from Holyrood Palace to new garden close to Edinburgh Castle, where Waverley Station now stands (Mitchell 1996). Incidentally, these two locations were, respectively, the first and second sites of the institution now known as the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, which has only been at its current location since 1820, having moved three times since it was founded at Holyrood in 1670. How long A. platanoides was in cultivation before the first garden move it is not known, though it is not thought to have been common (Mitchell 1996), and it is telling that Sutherland took the trouble to take it with him.

Norway Maple is not considered particularly long-lived, and certainly not as long-lived as A. pseudoplatanus. Old plants at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire, presumed original arboretum plantings have been lost in recent years, natural attrition somewhat accelerated by honey fungus (Armillaria spp.) infection, though the largest example there, on Pool Avenue, remains in reasonable health and measured 26 m tall in 2014 (The Tree Register 2018). Mitchell (1996) suggested that this tree could date from 1855 (which would make it the oldest known), but not before, as the arboretum was developed largely from that date onwards. The UK and Ireland Champion, growing on a steep bank in Prior Park, Bath, measured an impressive 36.1 m high in 2012 (The Tree Register 2018), making it the tallest example of the species in cultivation (wild examples in Russia and Poland have been measured at 37.9 and 37.2 m, repsectively) (monumentaltrees.com 2018).

The introduction of the species to North America is credited to either John or William Bartram (Nowak 1990; Jacobson 1996), who offered it in 1756 after Philip Miller sent seed from England. An alternative date of 1784 is stated by some authors (Jacobson 1996), with fellow Pennsylvanian William Hamilton importing a number of tree species, including A. platanoides, at around that time (Spongberg 1990). Its aforementioned attributes were soon noted by growers and it became increasingly popular. As urban expansion took off in North America the species quickly found favour with urban planners and it became even more widely planted, but its success led to an over-reliance on the species and consequent overplanting (Dirr & Warren 2019). Furthermore, as such a prolific and aggressive seeder, in recent years it has become a byword for invasiveness with the ecological threat in natural areas in parts of the eastern United States and adjoining regions of Canada widely highlighted. These tendencies render it an inappropriate planting choice in these regions and it is flagged as ‘Not recommended’ by The Morton Arboretum (2020) and appears on at least one gardening website list of ‘most hated plants’ (Ecosystem Gardening 2020). It has been suspected to have allelopathic properties (though this appears as yet unproven (Rich 2004)) and as it forms dense thickets in forest understoreys this prohibits the establishment of native plants within these ecosystems. In the warmer, drier climates of the southern States it is not considered invasive and breeders are seeking to develop seedless selections, though diversification of species selection is regardless advocated by many, for example Dirr & Warren (2019).

It naturalises too in parts of Britain. Seedlings are easily found in many areas, though its invasive tendencies, thus far, appear easier to keep in check here, and it continues to be a popular subject of the nursery trade. Where it is grown the species is prone to forming girdling roots while it can become infected with verticillium wilt and anthracnose (The Morton Arboretum 2020). Tar spot of maple is also common, though this causes little long-term harm. It is also subject to grey squirrel damage. Numerous cultivars of the species have been selected, for both form and foliage characters, while hybrids with other section Platanoidea species A. amplum and A. truncatum are also cultivated. A great many of its selections, including those of its hybrids, were introduced first in North America, dating from after the second world war (van Gelderen et al. 1994). Several of these were introduced by E.H. Scanlon, of Ohio, whose cultivars are now widely grown on both sides of the Atlantic and are collectively known as the Scanlon Tailored Trees (van Gelderen et al. 1994, p. 308).


'Aureo-marginatum'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

A form described by Milford in 1874, ‘Aureo-marginatum’ has yellow leaf margins, though is reportedly no longer in cultivation (van Gelderen et al. 1994). Bean (1976) states that it is often three-lobed.


'Columnare'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

Leaves smaller and shallower-lobed than in the type; branches erect; habit columnar. Raised in the nursery of Simon-Louis at Plantières, near Metz, in 1855, and available commercially from 1878-1879 (Bean 1976; Jacobson 1996). Two clones have been sold under this name, the second named ‘Columnarbroad’ (Jacobson 1996).


'Crimson King'

Awards
Award of Garden Merit

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

One of the best of all the purple-leaved selections, ‘Crimson King’ grows almost to the size of the typical form of the species, retaining its rich purple foliage throughout the season, though offering little in the way of autumn colour. It can struggle in summer heat however, when its growth often slows or stops altogether (Dirr & Warren 2019). It is also attractive early in the season, when its yellow and purplish flowers are produced in abundance, from which relatively few fruits are formed. It originated as a seedling of ‘Schwedleri’ Bean 1976; Jacobson 1996), selected as a seedling in 1937 at the nursery of Tips Brothers, Belgium, alongside others including ‘Faassen’s Black’ (van Gelderen et al. 1994). The seedling was taken to Barbier nursery, France, raised there and introduced, seemingly first in the United States, by Gulfstream Nursery, Virginia in 1947 (van Gelderen et al. 1994; Jacobson 1996). It is commonly grown in parks and gardens and also used as a street tree, though is suceptible to powdery mildew van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999). It is similar to ‘Goldsworth Purple’, ‘Royal Red’ and ‘Royal Crimson’, the latter perhaps offspring of ‘Crimson King’, from which various other selection are derived.


'Cucullatum'

Common Names
Crimpleaf Norway Maple

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

Named from France in 1866 by Élie-Abel Carrière (van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999), ‘Cucullatum’ has curiously crinkled, fan shaped leaves, with lobes often lying on top of one another and nearly orbicular in outline. Described as a tree of around 10 m by (van Gelderen et al. 1994), trees at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire, and elsewhere, have been measured as well over twice this tall. Those at Westonbirt are believed to have been received from Van Volxem’s nurseries, Germany, in 1879 (Bean 1976). Arriving in North America in 1893, it has been available commercially there since around 1907 (Jacobson 1996).


'Dissectum'

Common Names
Cutleaf Norway Maple

Synonyms
Acer platanoides 'Cutleaf'
Acer platanoides 'Palmatum'
Acer platanoides 'Palmatipartitum'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

Described in 1834 (van Gelderen et al. 1994; Jacobson 1996), ‘Dissectum’ was introduced to Britain by Knight and Perry from Belgium in 1845, though, according to Bean (1976 p. 224) ‘no tree that can with any certainty be ascribed to this clone has been traced’. It was introduced to North America around 1898 and available by around 1910, and noted by Jacobson (1996) as rare. It has three deeply dissected lobes ‘the basal pair often cut again almost as deeply, and all the lobes divided into secondary lobes with long drawn-out points’ (Bean 1976 p. 224). Similar is ‘Palmatifidum’ (syn. ‘Lorbergii), a name to which more plants appear to be reasonably attributed to.


'Drummondii'

Common Names
Harlequin Maple

Synonyms
Acer platanoides 'Variegatum' hort. Am., non P Miller 
Acer platanoides 'Harlequin'
Acer platanoides 'Silver Variegated'
Acer platanoides 'Argentea Variegata'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

Introduced before 1903 by Messrs Drummond of Stirling, Scotland, and described by Schwerin in 1910 (Jacobson 1996; van Gelderen & van Gelderen1999), ‘Drummondii’ has become one of the most common selections of Acer platanoides. It forms a tree of up to 12 m, with leaves bright green, with a thick creamy-white margin. It is however, rather prone to reversion, with such growth ideally removed at the earliest opportunity.


'Faassen's Black'

Synonyms
Acer platanoides 'Crimson Sunburst'
Acer platanoides 'Faassen Red Leaf'
Acer platanoides 'Atropurpureum Globosum'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

A form with dark purplish leaves, ‘Faassen’s Black’ originated as one of several seedlings, along with ‘Crimson King’ at Tips Brothers nursery, Belgium, in around 1937 and was introduced commercially by Faasen-Hekkens nursery, the Netherlands in around 1946 (Bean 1976; Jacobson 1996). It has a more open form than ‘Crimson King’ and its leaves are held horizontally, rather than somewhat droopily. It is also smaller in habit than that selection (Jacobson 1996). van Gelderen et al. (1994) state that is duller in leaf though otherswise more or less identical.


'Globosum'

Common Names
Globe Norway Maple

Synonyms
Acer platanoides 'Compactum'
Acer platanoides 'Globe'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

First listed in the catalogue of the nursery of L. Van Houtte, Belgium in 1873 and recorded in North America by 1896 (Jacobson 1996), ‘Globosum’ is a topgrafted selection of compact growth with a globular, lollipop-like crown, its early leaves coloured a bronzey green (Jacobson 1996).


'Laciniatum'

Common Names
Eagle's Claw Norway Maple
Peacock-tail Maple

Synonyms
Acer platanoides 'Laciniosum'
Acer platanoides 'Foliis Laciniosis Crispis'
Acer platanoides 'Laciniata'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

The oldest of the named selections of A. platanoides, ‘Laciniatum’ was described by Sutherland in 1683 (Bean 1976; van Gelderen et al. 1994). Its leaves are deeply cut, the lobes ending in claw-like points (Bean 1976; van Gelderen et al. 1994). It was offered in the United States from 1867, though no longer appears much grown (van Gelderen et al. 1994; Jacobson 1996).


'Nanum'

Of dwarf, pyramidal shape. Nicholson in Gard. Chron., Vol. 15, 1881, p. 565. Also known as A. pyramidale nanum. There is a specimen at Kew received from Späth in 1900, measuring 23 × 1{3/4} ft.

'Oekonomierat Stoll'

Synonyms
'Stollii'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

A form with large often three-lobed leaves, up to 23 cm across, ‘Oekonomierat Stoll’ is a small tree and a seedling of ‘Schwedleri’ (van Gelderen et al. 1994). Also found as ‘Stollii’, it was probably named after Rudolph Stoll (1847-1913), director of a garden at Proskau, Austria (Jacobson 1996). Listed by Späth’s nurseries in 1888 (Bean 1976), it was introduced to North America in around 1896 and available commercially there around 15 years later (Jacobson 1996).


'Palmatifidum'

Synonyms
Acer platanoides 'Lorbergii'
Acer platanoides 'Digitatum'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

Included by Bean (1976, p.225) as an ‘ambiguous name’, van Gelderen and van Gelderen (1999) include ‘Palmatifidum’ as the correct name for ‘Lorbergii’, under which plants may be found growing. Its leaves are deeply dissected, with the lobes sometimes overlapping with one another. The leaves are dark green and turn yellow in autumn. It was originally described in 1829 by Ignaz Friedrich Tausch (van Gelderen and van Gelderen 1999).


'Reitenbachii'

Synonyms
Acer platanoides 'Bloodleaf'
Acer platanoides 'Nigrum'
Acer platanoides 'Purpureum Reitenbachii'
Acer platanoides 'Reichenbachii'
Acer platanoides 'Youngii'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

‘Reitenbachii’ has leaves that are reddish brown at first, later turning to a dull green. It was found at the nursery of J. Reitenbach, Prussia (now Poland), named by Johann Xaver Robert Caspary and introduced by Louis Van Houtte of Belgium in 1874 (Bean 1976; van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999). A less vigorous grower than ‘Schwedleri’, it has been rather superseded by improved selections over time, such as that one (van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999). It has been confused with Acer platanoides ‘Rubrum’, which is something different (Jacobson 1996). ‘Purpureum’, a form also propagated by Van Houtte at the turn of the twentieth century, was dropped in favour of this selection.


'Schwedleri'

Awards
Award of Garden Merit

RHS Hardiness Rating: H7

Originating in 1864 and described in 1869, ‘Schwedleri’ was named after Carl Heinz Schwedler (1807-1880), a garden supervisor for Prince Hohenlohe of Slawentitz, Poland (Jacobson 1996). Its leaves are bright red when young, turning green later in the season. Described as a popular selection by Bean (1976), it has been superseded by a number of newer cultivars, particuarly by ‘Deborah’ and ‘Fairview’ in the United States (Dirr & Warren 2019). It can still be found in many parks and avenues in Europe, however.


'Walderseei'

Discovered in the park of Count Waldersee, Mesendorf, Germany in 1900 and introduced by Späth’s nurseries in 1904, Acer platanoides ‘Walderseei’ is a densely branched tree with leaves smaller than the typical form of the species and densely speckled with white (Bean 1976a; Jacobson 1996; van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999). van Gelderen & van Gelderen (1999, p. 220) describe it as a ‘forgotten’ selection that deserves greater attention.

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