Characteristics of Norway Maple Tree (Acer platanoides) in the Wild

Acer platanoides
Norway maple (Acer platanoides) is a species of maple native to eastern and central Europe and western Asia. This tree was introduced to North America in the mid-1700s as a shade tree.

Norway maple has been widely cultivated in other areas, including northwestern Europe from where it originated. In North America, it is grown as a road shade tree north of Anchorage, Alaska. Norway maple is best recommended in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-7 but can grow in warmer zones (at least up to Zone 10) where summer heat is moderate, such as along the Pacific coast south to the Los Angeles valley.

During the 1950s Norway maple became popular as a road shade tree due to the loss of American elm (Ulmus americana) due to Dutch elm disease at that time.

Norway maple is favored for its tall trunk and tolerance to poor soil, pollution, and the conditions where sugar maple (Acer saccharum) has difficulty growing. This tree has also become a popular species for bonsai in Europe and is used for medium to large bonsai sizes and many styles.

Norway maple is not usually cultivated for syrup production due to the lower sugar content of the sap compared to sugar maple.

Many cultivars of Norway maple have been selected for their distinctive leaf shape or color, such as:

  • Acer platanoides ‘Crimson King’
  • Acer platanoides ‘Schwedleri’
  • Acer platanoides ‘Drummondii’
  • Acer platanoides ‘Emerald Queen’
  • Acer platanoides ‘Dissectum’
  • Acer platanoides ‘Lorbergii’
  • Acer platanoides ‘Columnare’

The cultivars ‘Crimson King’ and ‘Prigold’ have been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

 

Characteristics of Norway Maple Leaf

Acer platanoides Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/maxrenfer

Leaves opposite, lobed palmately with 5-lobed, 7-15 cm long and 8-25 cm wide, lobes each having one to three side teeth, and smooth margins.

The petiole is 8–20 cm long and secretes a milky sap when squeezed. The leaf color in autumn is usually yellow, sometimes orange-red (depending on the cultivar).

Shoots are green at first, then turn pale brown. Winter shoots are shiny red-brown.

 

Characteristics of Norway Maple Flower

Acer platanoides Flower
Source: inaturalist.org/epopov

The flowers are in corymbs 15-30 together, yellow to yellow-green with five sepals and five petals 3-4 mm long. Flowering occurs in early spring before new leaves appear.

 

Characteristics of Norway Maple Fruit

Acer platanoides Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/schultzygardener

The fruit is double-shaded with two winged seeds. The seeds are disc-shaped, flat, strong, 10-15 mm in diameter, and 3 mm thick. The seed wings are 3-5 cm long, widely spread, approaching an angle of 180°. The fruit produces a large number of good-quality seeds that grow easily.

 

Characteristics of Norway Maple Tree

Acer platanoides Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/schultzygardener

Norway maple is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 30 meters in height with a trunk diameter of up to 1.5 meters, and a broad round crown. The bark is gray-brown and shallow grooved. Unlike many other maple trees, mature Norway maples tend not to have rough bark.

Norway maple wood is considered to be not durable because it is easily damaged against decay. In Europe, wood is used for furniture, flooring, and musical instruments.

Under ideal conditions in their native area, Norway maples can live up to 250 years but often have a much shorter life expectancy, for example in North America, sometimes as little as 60 years. Especially when used on the street, it can have insufficient space to spread its roots. In addition, Norway’s maple tree roots tend to be shallow and they easily compete with nearby plants for nutrient absorption.

 

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