Few maples perform as well here.

Japanese maples get all the notoriety. They have such delightful texture and form. Many are proportionate to small spaces, such as atriums. Realistically though, they are overrated and overused. Meanwhile, other maples that work as larger shade trees remain obscure. Norway maple, Acer platanoides, gets broad enough to shade much of an urban garden, but rarely gets to forty feet tall.

Of course, Norway maple has innate limitations. It dislikes arid and harshly warm desert climates. Nor does it like to be too close to the coast. Los Angeles is about as far south as it wants to live. In the Pacific Northwest, it gets much bigger, and develops greedy roots. The non-cultivar species is invasive there. Norway maple defoliates neatly for winter, but then refoliates late in about April.

Almost all local Norway maples are cultivars. ‘Schwedleri’ has richly bronzed foliage. It is rare now, but was a popular street tree in the 1950s. ‘Crimson King’ has richer purplish foliage, but is less vigorous. ‘Drummondii’ displays delightful variegation. The deciduous foliage of Norway maple turns soft brownish yellow or gold for autumn. The palmately lobed leaves may be five inches wide.

4 thoughts on “Norway Maple

    1. It is a very unpopular tree in regions where it has become an aggressively naturalized exotic weed, but is still planted. That makes no sense. It is a practical tree here where it does not naturalize, but it is almost never planted. I will be growing a few ‘Schwedlerii’ Norway maples for a street at work, but they will be the only ones that I am aware of in the region. The only ones that bother me are the straight species, and only because have read about how invasive they can be. There are two of them at one of the cabins here, and they actually did generate a few feral saplings. I know they can not naturalize in chaparral climates, but they might be able to escape into the redwood forests.

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    1. It is baffling that a tree that is famously invasive is still planted in regions where it is already a problem! It should be planted where it is NOT a problem, like in landscapes within chaparral climates. It had been a practical street tree in San Jose for several decades, but is very rare now. I have not seen any of the cultivars in nurseries since about 1995. There are two at a cabin at work, but I suspect that they were brought by someone from Pennsylvania. (Unfortunately, they are not cultivars, but are instead the straight species. They actually produced a few saplings that I am grafting ‘Schwedlerii’ onto. The saplings sort of concern me. The redwood forests are a very different climate from the chaparral climate of San Jose, just a few miles away. Although I doubt that Norway maple would be invasive here, I really do not know for sure.)

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