Friday, October 10, 2008

Hedge Maple

On my way to work this morning, I noticed, for the first time, that Acer campestre, or hedge maple, is being used as a street tree on Mulberry Street, between Spring and Prince. It was such a bizarre choice that I had to take a few photos and post this.

Hedge maple, as you can infer from the common name, can branch quite low to the ground and has thus been employed to good effect as a hedge. Perhaps that accounts for the reason this tree is *not* ideal for a narrow street like Mulberry. You can see how badly trucks have damaged the overall shape. The tree's 'instinct' to branch low only makes this kind of damage (typical with any street tree) more obvious.

Hedge maple leaves are fairly remarkable from other plants in the Acer genus due to the rounded tips on the lobes. To me, they always look a little bit cartoonish.

Like Acer rubrum (red, or swamp, maple), the leaves can have five or three lobes.

Another noteworthy item about the leaves on Acer campestre is the tomentous (fuzzy) underside. If you run your fingertips over the bottom of the leaf, you will feel a faint scratchiness, like very soft, fine sandpaper.

The bark is a bit stripey -- vertical fissures occur with regularity.

Finally - you can see the samaras have formed and dried and soon will be helicoptering their way down to the ground. I think the samaras on maples have to be one of the most beautiful examples of how plants and animals (like insects) can evolve independently but still reach similar forms, simply due to the fact that it's the best design to achieve a particular function.

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