A large family of hardy, deciduous trees grown for their decorative foliage and attractive bark. Maple trees are some of the easiest plants to cultivate and range in size from mere bushes to large trees. Many varieties have attractive leaf forms in spring and summer but the autumn colour is usually the most striking.
For Japanese Acers see Japanese Maples.
Family: Sapindaceae (soapberry
Botanical Name: Acer
Common Names: Maple, sycamore
Foliage: Deciduous, rounded, lobed leaves. The fresh green foliage turns red or orange in autumn.
Blossom/Fruit: Small flowers followed by winged fruits.
Flowering Period: Spring
Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (clay or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.
Conditions: Sun or partial shade. Most large species thrive any aspect, in a sheltered location.
Habit: Rounded, spreading or bushy.
Origin: Worldwide distribution.
Hardiness: Fully hardy in the UK.
Maples thrive in any fertile soil type in sun or partial shade but do best in light loam in an open position.
The Japanese varieties, which a are popular choice for small gardens, need light shade to prevent leaf scorch and also protection from cold winds.
Water young trees until well established.
Pruning is not normally necessary except to remove dead or damaged wood
Can be affected by gall mite, aphids, caterpillars and horse chestnut scale. Prone to Verticillium wilt, Acer leaf scorch and honey fungus.
Increase species by seed sown outdoors when ripe. Named varieties can be propagated from cuttings, grown under the protection of a cold frame in summer.
Acer campestre (field maple) is a tall tree that grows wild and free across the countryside, in spinneys and hedgerows. The leaves turn butter yellow in autumn. Insignificant Green flowers. Height to 40ft (12m), spread 26ft (8m).
Acer capillipes (red snakebark maple) has greenish bark that is attractively streaked creamy-white. Green, red-veined leaves that turn crimson in autumn. Height and spread to 35ft (10m).
Acer x conspicuum (snakebark maple) is a medium upright tree or large branching shrub. The bark is blue-green or reddish with white stripes. Height to 35ft (10m). The popular cultivar 'Red Flamingo' is a slow growing attractive form with boldly variegated leaves and bright red stems. Height to 20ft (6m).
Acer griseum (paper-bark maple) is a slow-growing tree with a spreading canopy of dark green leaves that turn a orange then crimson in the autumn. The most attractive feature is its peeling cinnamon-coloured bark. Masses of yellow flowers appear in summer. Suitable for container growing. One of the best small tree for gardens, and generally easier to grow than Japanese acers. Height and spread up to 30ft (9m).
Acer negundo (boxelder maple) is a variegated form of maple with several good cultivars, including: 'Aureum' with yellow leaves, 'Variegatum' with light green and white leaves, and 'Elegantissimum' with golden variegated leaves. Height 26ft (8m), spread 35ft (10m).
Acer platanoides (Norway maple) is a fast-growing tree with five-lobed, bright green leaves, turning yellow in autumn. Height 60ft (18m), spread 50ft (15m). Variety 'Crimson King' is fast-growing with beetroot-red leaves.
Acer pensylvanicum (striped maple) has smooth green bark striped with white.
Acer pseudoplatanus (common sycamore maple) is a majestic, broad-leaved tree that generally grows to large for the average sized garden. Height to 40ft (12m), spread 26ft (8m). Yellow-green, catkin-like flowers in spring, followed by green, winged fruit. The more compact cultivar 'Brilliantissimum' makes an attractive, slow-growing specimen with attractive foliage, variegated in pink, pale green and yellow in spring, gradually changing to green by late summer. Height to 20ft (6m).
Acer tataricum (Tatar maple) is a slow growing and bushy form with broadly oval-shaped, pale leaves which turn yellow in autumn. Height to 15ft (4.5m), spread 8ft (2.5m).