You know when I first came across this tree over twenty years ago on a local field boundary, I am embarrassed to say I did not know what kind of tree it was. I always liked its form, and it make a good perch for passing birds to rest on.
Also called ‘Common Maple’ or ‘English Maple’, this is a medium-sized deciduous tree which can be fairly variable in shape. It can be either broadly domed or narrow with a high dome. It can grow up to a height of 25m (82ft). The bark is grey-brown and fissured. The fairly small dark green leaves are 3-5 lobed, the top lobe being pointed and the bottom pair being smaller. Freshly open leaves have a pinkish tinge to them which eventually turn green. In autumn they can be quite a spectacle as they turn bright yellow then a reddish-brown colour. Male and female flowers occur together with the leaves in April to May and are yellowish-green. The winged fruits are in bunches of 4, with the wings horizontal, light green and stained crimson. These wings allow the seeds to be carried far from the parent plant by the wind.
Found in woods, hedgerows and open fields. This is Britain’s only native species of maple, and it is common as a wayside tree and hedgerow shrub in England and Wales. It is scarcer further north.
The Field Maple is an important food source to many insects, birds and mammals.
September 2010 and August 2013, local field boundary, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2010 and 2013.