Thursday, June 3, 2010

Norway Maple

The Norway maple (Acer platanoides) is not one of Green-Wood's most prized trees. For one thing, it's an invasive species, and although my beloved weeping willow and Amur cork tree are as well, this spring I could see why the Norway maple is on the list. Before spring mowing started, the lawn within fifty feet of each Norway maple (and beyond) was covered with seedlings. Green-Wood would quickly become a Norway maple forest if the mowing operations were ever halted. With a canopy that creates heavy shade and roots that secrete chemicals preventing the growth of other plants, the Norway maple has the ability to completely dominate a forest. Mowing isn't going to stop, however, and as the cemetery isn't bordering any forests or uncultivated green spaces, it isn't posing a risk to our native flora in that way. This maple species, although it's able to survive in extreme conditions, does pose other problems for a garden environment: it has a structure that tends to break easily. Each time we have a big storm, there's surely a Norway maple down or damaged, and over the years, the ones that remain look gangly. But Norway maples do have their moments. Here, at the end of April, they were still leafing out.

They are also delightful in flower. Flowering happens before any leaves appear and before most any other species has leafed out, giving the landscape an early touch of color.

These groupings of greenish flowers dot the canopy. Above, flowers in full bloom; below, flowers not yet opened.

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