A deciduous, round-headed tree, usually between 20 and 35 ft in height, but occasionally over 70 ft. Leaves five-lobed, palmate, up to 4 in. across (usually 2 to 3 in.), somewhat less in length, downy beneath and at the edges; the stalk about as long as the blade, exuding a milky sap when broken. Flowers few, green, produced in small, and at first erect, corymbs. Fruits with horizontally spreading wings 1 in. or more long, 1⁄3 in. wide, usually downy.
Native of Europe, including Britain, and of the Near East and N. Africa. It is a common hedgerow tree in the south of England, with a preference for limy soils. Two varieties are found here: the commoner and typical one with downy fruits; and leiocarpum (Opiz) Tausch, with glabrous ones.
When well grown, the common maple is a rather handsome, neatly shaped small tree, and may reach a substantial size in south-eastern England: at Mote Park, Maidstone, Kent it has attained 78 × 83⁄4 ft. Often enough, however, it is a mere bush in English hedgerows. It makes a close, neat hedge, and although not much used in England is popular on the continent for this purpose. The famous hedges in the gardens of the former summer palace of the Austrian Emperors at Schönbrunn, near Vienna, are largely formed of this maple – perpendicular walls of verdure 35 ft high. The wood is hard, with a fine grain.
On the continent the common maple is a more variable tree than it is with us. In some forms, found near the Mediterranean, it resembles A. monspessulanum, but the milky sap exuded by the leaf-stalks will always distinguish it from that species. A variety in cultivation is:
var. austriacum (Tratt.) DC. – Leaves more leathery than in the type, the lobes more pointed and less indented; it occurs wild in S.E. Europe.
The following are the principal garden varieties:
cv. ‘Compactum’. – A dwarf bush of very close, compact growth, only a few feet high, and usually broader than it is high. Origin uncertain; first described in Gartenflora, Vol. 42, 1893, p. 329.
cv. ‘Postelense’. – Leaves golden yellow; very effective in springtime. The parent of this clone was found near Postel in Silesia, and put into commerce around 1896.
cv. ‘Pulverulentum’. – Leaves speckled and flecked with white. The true clone of this name was in cultivation in the Muskau Arboretum in 1864, but its origin is unknown. Forms have also been described in which the leaves are more coarsely blotched with white.
cv. ‘Schwerinii’. – Leaves purple on first expanding, afterwards turning green. Distributed by Hesse’s nurseries, Germany, before 1899.
A. divergens Pax A. quinquelobum K. Koch, not Gilib. – A shrub or small tree. Leaves five-lobed, less commonly three-lobed, 11⁄4 to 3 in. wide, truncate or slightly heart-shaped at the base, the lobes broad-ovate, bluntly pointed, entire, glabrous on both sides, dark green above, paler beneath. Wings of fruit spreading at a wide angle; keys about 1 in. long; nutlet flattened on both sides. Native of Asiatic Turkey. It was introduced to Kew in 1923, where there is a specimen of 20 × 13⁄4 ft (1966). There is a smaller example in the Knap Hill Nursery, Surrey.