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Maple, Norway (Acer platanoides)

Norway maple is a deciduous broadleaf tree native to northern Europe and was introduced to the UK in the 17th century.

Common name: Norway maple

Scientific name: Acer platanoides
Family: Sapindaceae

UK provenance: non-native

Interesting fact: Norway maple was introduced to North America in the early 20th century and is now  considered an invasive species. Because it is so tolerant to shade, it out-competes the North American native sugar maple. However, its canopy is denser than that of sugar maple, so fewer wildflowers are able to grow beneath, reducing biodiversity.

What does Norway maple look like?

Overview: mature Norway maple trees can grow to 25m. The bark is grey with fine ridges, and the twigs are slender and  brown with tiny white spots.

Leaves: palmate and have five lobes with a few pointed teeth. They are dark green in colour, fading to yellow and occasionally red before falling in autumn. 

Flowers: all Norway maple flowers grow in clusters of up to 30.

Fruits: once pollinated by insects, female flowers develop into winged seeds, or samaras, which fall in autumn and are distributed by wind.

Look out for: leaf stalks ooze a milky sap when squeezed. The wings on the seeds are set in a straight line.

Could be confused with: field maple (acer campestre) and sycamore (acer pseudoplatanus). The angle of the seeds is wider in field maple than either of these.

Identified in winter by: individual buds are green and red.

Where to find Norway maple

Native to eastern and central Europe, from France east to Russia, Norway maple can be found in the UK as a street tree and is widely planted as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens due to its tall trunk and tolerance of compacted soils, shade and pollution.

Value to wildlife

A number of moth caterpillars feed on the leaves, and the flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees and other insects. Birds and small mammals eat the seeds. 

Mythology and symbolism

As an introduced, non-native tree, there is no mythology or folklore associated with Norway maple.

How we use Norway maple

Norway maple timber is similar to that of sycamore, being hard, strong and pale cream in colour. It may be used for a variety of situations, including furniture and turnery. However it is not often grown commercially due to problems associated with grey squirrels, which strip the bark.

Trees are also planted widely in towns and cities, thanks to their ornamental value, and tolerance of shade and pollution.

Threats

Like sycamore, Norway maple is affected by a variety of fungal diseases, including Verticillium wilt and honey fungus. It is vulnerable to bark stripping by grey squirrels, horse chestnut scale insect and horse chestnut leaf miner.

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