If you meet a Maple in the city, there’s a big chance it’s a Norway maple or one of its many cultivars. Leaves can be light green, dark green, crimson, or variegated (two colours). Norway Maples usually have a rounded shape to their canopies, but there’s a ‘columnar’ shaped type, and a ‘weeping’ type too. Take a step back and consider the shape of this tree – it’s a great way to tell a Norway Maple at a distance.
Native to a wide variety of lands all over Europe, Asia, and Russia, Norway Maples are very adaptive. They’re the most urban-hearty of trees, and so they’ve been planted like crazy. And that wasn’t such a brilliant thing.
Not much grows under a Norway Maple, it emits chemicals to make sure of that. And not much in North America is interested in eating this tree, so it has a huge competitive advantage over native maples.
It is no longer legal for local tree nurseries to grow Norway Maples, but they can still sell trees that have already been sprouted. This means the plantings are slowing down, but we’ll probably keep seeing new Norway Maples for a few years to come.
One of the best ways to tell a Norway Maple from a Red or Sugar Maple is by its bark. Spend some time with the trunk of this tree and get to know its texture of dense, shallow crevices.
Norway Maples are not the most brave when it comes to re-establishing damaged soils, but are often found along the edges of brownfields. Walk a scrubby hillside along the traintracks, or peer into a tangly hedge, and you’ll probably find a Norway Maple or two. And look down in the grass! Do you see any little green Maple sprouts poking their heads up? Until the first big mow of the season, many lawns in the city are thick with baby Maples reaching towards the Spring sun.