Maple, field (Acer campestre)
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Field maple is a broadleaf deciduous tree native to the UK and most of Europe.
Common name: field maple
Scientific name: Acer campestre
UK provenance: native
Interesting fact: as with all maple trees, the sap can be used to make maple syrup.
A year in the life of a field maple tree
What does field maple look like?
Overview: mature trees can grow to 20m and live for up to 350 years. The bark is light brown and flaky, and twigs are slender and brown, and develop a corky bark with age. Small, grey leaf buds grow on long stems.
Leaves: small, dark green and shiny, with five lobes and rounded teeth. They fade to a rich golden yellow before falling in autumn.
Flowers: the flowers appear to be hermaphrodite, meaning that both male and female reproductive parts are contained within one flower. However, they are likely to be dominated by either male or female sexual parts. They are small, yellow-green, cup-shaped and hang in clusters.
Fruits: after pollination by insects, flowers develop into large, winged fruits, which are dispersed by wind.
Look out for: new seeds are tinged with pin and the wings on the seeds are set in a straight line.
Identified in winter by: older twigs have corky ridges and small, grey leaf buds.
Where to find field maple
The UK's only native maple, it is found growing in woods, scrubs and hedgerows, and on chalk downland. It is widely planted in gardens and parks due to its compact habit, tolerance of pollution and rich autumn colours.
Value to wildlife
Field maple is attractive to aphids and therefore their predators, including many species of ladybird, hoverfly and bird. The leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of several species of moth, including the sycamore moth, the mocha, the maple pug, the small yellow wave, the prominent and the maple prominent. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees and birds, and small mammals eat the fruits.
Mythology and symbolism
There is little mythology and symbolism associated with the field maple, but in parts of Europe it was believed that maple branches hung around a doorway could prevent bats from entering the building. The herbalist, Culpepper, recommended maple leaves and bark to strengthen the liver.
How we use field maple
Field maple produces the hardest, highest density timber of all European maples. It is a warm creamy-brown colour with a silky shine. Traditional uses included wood-turning, carving and making musical instruments, particularly harps. The wood polishes well is often used as a veneer.
Field maples can be affected by sycamore gall mite and can also be susceptible to a wilt caused by a soil-borne fungi.