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A deciduous shrub or small tree, rarely 30 to 35 ft high, most often a bush 8 to 15 ft high; branches usually glabrous, although in some wild Cretan specimens the young twigs are covered with a close down. Leaves of various shapes, sometimes ovate, sometimes three-lobed, 3⁄4 to 2 in. long, the lobes rounded and blunt, but often scarcely apparent, bright green and quite glabrous on both surfaces, margins entire, or with shallow undulations, or occasionally with a few small teeth. Flowers in few-flowered corymbs less than 1 in. long, greenish yellow. Fruit with glabrous wings 1⁄2 in, or rather more long, ultimately parallel or at an angle of about 60°. This maple frequently retains its leaves up to Christmas or later.
Native of the E. Mediterranean; introduced in 1752. There was a tree in the garden of Syon House, Brentford, which in its prime was 32 ft high, and nearly 50 ft in spread of branches. The finest known at the present time grows at Tregothnan in Cornwall, measuring 30 × 43⁄4 ft (1961). There is a thriving specimen at Grayswood Hill, Surrey, about 18 ft high, with a spreading crown (1967). Usually it is a mere bush a few feet in height, and very slow in growth. It is allied to A. monspessulanum, but has no tuft of down in the axils of the leaf-veins. Nicholson regarded A. heterophyllum as distinct from this species, but it has not been possible to detect any reliable difference. A. sempervirens is a variable species in the shape of its leaves, and Pax differentiates half a dozen forms, founded probably on dried specimens. But as leaves of several shapes are to be found on the same tree, this is probably an over-refinement.
In the first printing the second synonym was wrongly given as ‘A. creticum L.’. Correct is: A. creticum auct., not L. This may seem a small matter. But if the name A. creticum L. were valid, there is no reason why it should not be used, as it has priority over A. sempervirens L. In fact, A. creticum L. is simply an illegitimate renaming of the earlier A. orientale L. – a name given by Linnaeus to a maple of uncertain identity.
A. sempervirens is 25 × 51⁄2 ft at Tregothnan, Cornwall (1985).