When we moved to Salt Lake City the yard of our new house had two mature Norwegian Maple trees. Norwegian Maples (Acer platanoides) are popular shade trees in the intermountain west because they grow quickly and tolerate alkaline soil and an arid climate.
Norwegian Maples are native to Central Europe, and were introduced to the United States in the mid-1700’s. They are commonly used in this country as shade trees, particularly as replacements for American Elms that were lost to Dutch elm disease in the 1960’s.
There are significant drawbacks to Norwegian Maples. They are considered an invasive species and can out-compete native trees because they are very hardy and reproduce quickly, each tree producing huge numbers of seeds. Norwegian Maple sales are actually banned in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Norwegian Maple could be considered too effective of a shade tree. Its numerous large leaves create such dense shade that grass struggles to grow beneath it. The tree drops all these leaves very late in fall, so raking up after them is challenging. This year our trees still hadn’t dropped their leaves when snow started falling.
In springtime Norwegian Maples first produce clusters of small light-green flowers, followed by its new leaves. The slideshow below shows this progression of buds to flowers to leaves on one branch of our backyard tree from April 10-30.