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Maples are generally medium-sized trees, although this genus, belonging to the Sapindaceae family, brings together more than a hundred species, including shrubs that do not exceed one meter, and large trees that can reach 30 meters in height; except for one species, native to the southern hemisphere, all other species of Maple tree they are native to Asia, Europe and North America.
Although they exist maples evergreens, in parks and gardens we often find maples with deciduous leaves; first of all because the species that lose their leaves in winter are much more numerous; secondly because many species and varieties of Maple tree diffused in cultivation in autumn they take on a splendid coloring of the foliage, which can vary from the golden rooster, up to the red bordeaux.
Most of the maples also have palmate and lobed foliage, clearly marked by veins, often in a darker color; there are species with whole and non-lobed leaves, but typically the maple leaf has five lobes, and some species can reach up to seven or nine lobes; there maple leaf more representative of the genre is that present on the Canadian flag, with three well-defined lobes.
There are many species of maple grown in the garden, although surely the most widespread is acer palmatum, or acer japonicum, because they are small specimens, which often do not exceed one meter in height, and therefore can also find a place in gardens of modest dimensions or on the terrace, in vase. The flowers of the maple are not very showy, of green, red or orange color, and often appear just before the leaves, in spring, or together with them; these are not large, decorative flowers, but simple flowers, gathered in corymbs; they become noticeable only when the tree is in full bloom, because the whole life is certainly special.
Some species of mapleAcer negundo
Originally from North America, acer negundo is one of the most particular maple species, as it has pinnate leaves, usually consisting of three leaflets, but also of seven or a single leaflet; the most widespread variety is acer negundo "Flamingo", with striped and variegated leaves. The acer negundo leaves become golden yellow in autumn.
This maple is godic, therefore, if we wish it to produce seeds, we must have a female specimen and a male specimen, because the flowers of the two sexes grow on different plants. This maple is easy to grow, and fast growing; it quickly reaches 15-20 m in height, although it often tends to produce multiple trunks, which give rise to small groves, which do not exceed 10 meters in height. The cultivar varieties tend to remain smaller, becoming interesting even for small or medium-sized gardens. It does not fear the cold, and tends to develop in any soil, provided it is well drained, and in a sunny position; these trees don't like shade.
Tree of Chinese origin, has slow development, and over the years can reach 6-8 meters in height; in general it tends to produce numerous branches already in the lower part of the stem, and therefore gives rise to a sort of large disordered shrub, rather than to a tree with a well-defined crown. Also this maple has pinnate leaves, consisting of three leaves with a toothed margin, of a bluish green color; looking at a single leaf idi acer griseum but we recognize the structure of the classics maple leaves trilobate, where it seems that the lobes are so separated, to constitute three separate small leaves.
The foliage of the Acer griseum becomes fiery red, or orange in autumn, providing a decidedly attractive spectacle. The main notable characteristic of this maple is given by the bark: brown, glossy and smooth, with the passing of the years it tends to peel, and thin layers of dark bark remain attached to the trunk and branches, revealing a bright orange layer below . It prefers slightly acid, fresh and deep, very well drained soils, in a sunny or semi-shaded position.
Maple native to Japan, of small size, generally remains below 6-7 meters in height, although occasionally it can reach 12-15 meters, over the years. And leaves are palmate, the shape is roundish, but they have numerous lobes, deeply incised; they are dark green in color, and as soon as they sprout, they are completely covered with a fine down which tends to remain on the underside, along the veins, and on the petiole. In autumn they become bright red, often with lighter margins. The aconitifolium variety is very widespread, with lobed and finely engraved foliage, with a very bright autumn color. These maples do not like the Mediterranean climate, dry and warm, and they prefer semi-shady locations, supporting even the complete shadow without problems. They do not fear the cold, even if it is always advisable to place them in an area where they are not exposed to winter wind.
Commonly known as Japanese maple, the Acer palmatum is a shrub, or a small tree, which does not exceed 3-5 meters in height, originating from Asia; often it takes the shape of a bell or hemisphere, producing the first branches already at the base of the stem, and thus giving rise to a sort of elegant roundish shrub.
These maples have, even in nature, a great morphological variability, this means that even sowing seeds taken from a single plant, it is possible to obtain specimens with different characteristics; if we add to this peculiar characteristic, the fact that the acer palmatum has been cultivated for millennia in Japan, and for centuries in Europe, we can easily imagine why there are more than a thousand different Japanese maple cultivars and hybrids.
The foliage is palmate, with five or seven lobes, often finely engraved; the leaves are bright green, but the most common truths in Italy generally present a burgundy color throughout the year; Almost yellow, light green, dark green and fiery red varieties exist. Very often the most appreciated and expensive specimens are grafted, and tend to have a very slow growth: over the years they do not exceed 2-3 meters in height, remaining below the meter for several years, and producing vegetation almost as waterfall.
They prefer semi-shady locations, but in order to develop well it is good to keep the soil cool and avoid long periods of drought, in nature these trees grow in the undergrowth, shaded by other taller trees; the soil will be slightly acidic, very well drained and fresh; a thick layer of mulching can help prevent the soil from drying out quickly, especially in summer.
This tree is medium in size, and over the years it can reach 25-30 meters in height; it has large palmate leaves, divided into five deeply engraved lobes; the color of the foliage is dark green, but becomes yellow, orange or red on arrival of autumn cold.
It is a large tree suitable for city parks, with no special needs; originally from North America, it typically bears even poor climatic conditions suited to other maples: it is grown in the sun or in complete shade, it does not fear frost or late spring cold. They are certainly not trees that love the Mediterranean climate, but they tolerate short periods of drought and sunny positions.
From the sap of these maples the famous maple syrup is obtained, obtained by making incisions on the bark, collecting the sap and making it boil for a long time, to concentrate the sugars contained in it.
Also called trident maple, it is native to Asia; the dimensions vary, depending on the specimen, and the place where it is grown, and range from 7 to 15 meters in height, with a thick and erect stem, and a beautiful oval crown. The foliage is trilobed, with the upper page shiny green, slightly leathery; in autumn the leaves become yellow or orange, before falling.
This maple tolerates drought quite well, and prefers sunny or semi-shady locations. The soil in which to grow the burger maple will be slightly acidic, very well drained, but fresh; the waterings will be regular in the young specimens, which do not tolerate prolonged drought. In general, in Italian parks, these maples become small trees, which do not exceed 6-7 meters in height, with a beautiful rounded or pyramidal crown, dense and dense.
Medium-sized tree, originating from Europe, Africa and Asia; in general it does not exceed ten meters in height, and even though it reaches 4-5 meters with great rapidity, it tends to develop slowly. The leaves are dark green, with five well-defined lobes, in autumn they become yellow, although this maple does not present the spectacular colors typical of other species.
It is one of the most tolerant and easy to grow maples; finds a place in the sun or in partial shade, in an alkaline soil, or slightly acid. It tends to develop even in compact and not very fertile soils, although in fact it prefers a well-drained and fresh soil. In Italy it is also found in the wild, but it is also cultivated in city parks and gardens.
There are some cultivars, with particularly decorative foliage; commonly called testucchio.
Known as Norwegian maple or curly maple, the Acer platanoides is widespread in nature throughout central Europe, up to Russia and the Balkans; it is a medium-sized trees, which can reach twenty meters in height; the leaves are shiny, dark green, lobed, with five pointed lobes.
The foliage in autumn takes on a yellow or orange color; there are dark, almost brown, leaf cultivars throughout the year.
Of easy cultivation, it does not like excessively hot and dry climates, and therefore in Italy it is spent positioned in partial shade and watered regularly in the first years of life, even if in nature it prefers sunny locations; it does not fear the cold, and can also withstand non-ideal cultivation conditions, developing without problems.
Also called sycamore or mountain maple, this maple is large in size and has a large crown, and can reach 30 meters in height, over the years. In nature it develops in northern Europe, in Asia and in the Caucasus area; produces a pyramidal or roundish crown, very wide and showy. The leaves are pentalobate, of medium green color, with very evident veins, of darker color; in autumn it takes on a yellow or bronze color.
In Italy there are some specimens also in the wild, in the hilly areas of the north; prefers sunny or semi-shady locations, and a strong adaptability to areas with strong pollution, or brackish air; for this reason the pseudoplatane maple is often used for street trees.
The red maple is a medium-sized tree, native to North America; it has great adaptability, and can also be grown in areas where other trees have given problems, such as in poorly fertile soils, or stony, or even near ponds where the soil is very humid. Its strong adaptability has made it a tree also grown in most of Europe. It has trilobate leaves, of dark real color, which become cherry red in autumn, very decorative.
There are many cultivars, with autumn foliage ranging from light yellow to orange or dark red; some varieties have pyramidal or flame-like crowns, even in specimens of young age. Red maple is easy to grow, and can also be found in medium-sized gardens.
Commonly called maple amur, it is one of the most widespread species in gardens, thanks to its not excessively large dimensions, in fact the adult specimens do not exceed ten meters in height; it is native to Asia, and has large lobed leaves, divided into three very divided lobes, which sometimes have two lower lobes, smaller and not very evident; the foliage is dark green, glossy, and in autumn it becomes a bright orange decoration.
These maples can also withstand climatic conditions that are not suited to their cultivation, and compact or stony soils, but generally do not like the Mediterranean climate, characterized by very hot and dry summers; for this reason, it is generally placed in areas of partial shade, in order to relieve the summer heat. It is not afraid of frost, even if intense and prolonged, and can withstand short periods of drought, especially if it has been in residence for some time.
There are many species and varieties of maple, and the spread is very wide, for this reason, although we can give general advice on the cultivation of maples, it is always good to know the species and the variety we are growing, because there are many exceptions, which require special cultivation treatments. Generally speaking, candles are easy to cultivate, and tend to develop in any soil, as long as they are not excessively acidic or excessively alkaline and calcareous; it is always fundamental that the cultivation substrate is very well drained, and let the rain water run off without creating stagnant water zones. The young specimens need regular watering, from April to September, whenever the soil is dry; the adult specimens, on the other hand, tend to be satisfied with the rains, although it is advisable to water them in case of very prolonged drought; to prevent the soil beneath the maples from becoming dry and completely dehydrated, it is often used to place a thick layer of mulching material, such as bark, or lapillus, so that the ground always remains fresh below. Maples of Asian origin are generally placed in semi-shaded places, to avoid damage due to excessive summer heat; the other maples instead find a place even in full sun.
They are trees that do not need excessive care, as it is not necessary to prune them, because over the years the foliage assumes a dense and compact habit, without the need to conform it in any way; except for the ordinary maintenance at the end of winter, when the damaged or broken branches are removed due to bad weather.
Pests and diseases
Acres are often attacked by fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew or rust; these diseases, however, are only worrying when we are growing a maple of still small size, as the loss of part of the foliage can cause serious damage to the future development of a small tree; in these cases therefore it is good to intervene promptly, with fungicides based on copper or sulfur. In the case of large specimens, on the other hand, except that they tend not to be attacked by such parasites, even if the plant generally does not tend to show any symptoms of suffering.
Often even leaf miners attack candles; also in this case, the use of an insecticide is advisable only on saplings; for adult specimens, the presence of insects on the leaves generally results only in an early defoliation, which occurs already in late summer or early autumn. In these cases it is important to remove the foliage from the soil and destroy it so that it does not act as an incubator for the insects for the following year.
Propagate the maples
At the flowering of the maples, follows the fruiting; the fruits of the maple are samaras, that is of the tiny flattened nuts, endowed with a sort of lateral wing, of papyraceous consistency; the samaras develop in pairs, attack walnut against walnut, in this way the two wings have the function of allowing the fruit to be transported by the wind, so that s can move many meters from the mother plant, in order to develop without being damaged by part of the shadow created by the tallest and widest trees.
A single maple produces several thousand samaras, and not all of them are fertile; therefore, if we want to sow a maple tree, it is advisable to prepare to sow many seeds. From maple seeds, identical specimens are not always obtained, as many species have a strong genetic variability, and therefore they can give rise to d small trees with slightly different foliage; this often occurs with acer palmatum seeds.
The main problem with the sowing of maples is due to the thick cuticle that covers them, which is completely waterproof; to be able to sow the maples, it is fundamental to practice the stratification, that is to put the seeds in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag with little sand, for some months; or you can lightly pass these seeds with very fine-grained sandpaper, so as to remove part of the external cuticle, to allow the water to penetrate and stimulate the germination of the seeds.
If we wish we can also prepare maple cuttings, in late spring; also in this case, it is good to prepare numerous cuttings, as they do not always take root easily: a greater number of cuttings improves our chances of success.
Maples are also very appreciated as outdoor bonsai, because trees, even when young, tend to quickly assume a majestic and very balanced appearance; in general, to prepare bonsai, we use the Acer palmatum, the Acer japonicum, the Acer buergerianum. It is therefore always species of Asian origin, which therefore do not like excessive sun, and summer heat; our bonsai will therefore be placed in a semi-shaded area of the garden, and watering will be very regular. When we want to raise a bonsai maple, our main problem is the size of the foliage, which in adult maples can exceed the size of a hand. For this reason, it will often be necessary to completely defoliate our bonsai, to stimulate a second production of leaves, which will be produced with progressively more minute dimensions.
Maple: The maple in the legends
Many maple species also develop throughout Europe, so there are legends and traditions related to this tree, even very ancient; some maples are called Celtic trees, because it seems that the Celtic populations attributed a magical value to the ancient specimens of maple. In the Latin tradition the maple is a negative tree, linked to the god Fobos, or the god of fear; this tradition is linked to the fact that the leaves become red during the autumn, the color of blood, wounds and war; for this reason, in fact, maples tend not to be widespread in areas of Latin culture, perhaps due to an atavistic aversion towards dark-colored trees. In some areas of France, maples were given the advantage of being able to remove bats, and for this purpose some maple twigs were hung above the bedroom windows.
The Latin tradition, which associates the maple to the blood, and therefore to the war, has been reinterpreted and absorbed by the Canadian culture, in fact the maple leaf present on the Canadian flag, but also widely used as a symbol on Canadian military uniforms, it is considered a symbol of fearlessness and courage.
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