London (change)
Today 17°C / 6°C
Tomorrow 13°C / 4°C

The field maple


by James Alexander-Sinclair

A smallish tree reaching only about 20m tall, the field maple has a bark as fissured as the face of W.H. Auden, with a slightly corky texture.


The field maple, Acer campestreWe have had a couple of mild frosts over the past week so we can assume that autumn is properly with us: further denial is pointless. Instead it is time to appreciate the turning leaves before they too have gone and we are left alone with only the evergreens to keep us amused.

Last year my autumn tree of choice was the magnificent liquidambar - I was actually quite bossy in my urgings. This year I have chosen a slightly more humble tree: the field maple, Acer campestre.

Acer campestre is our only native maple and has long been a stalwart of woodlands and hedges. This picture shows an unbearably ancient specimen, in a hedgerow. It has been laid more times than Xaviera Hollander over the decades; the trunk is extraordinary, both beautiful and slightly grotesque.

A smallish tree reaching only about 20m tall, the field maple has a bark as fissured as the face of W.H. Auden, with a slightly corky texture. The flowers are nothing much to write home about, being little greeny numbers that turn up at the same time as the new leaves, but the leaves are very fine. It is happiest on non-acidic soil.

There is one outside my office and the leaves are just beginning to turn a rather fabulous buttery yellow. This yellow autumn colour is often seen as a bit second division compared to its more spectacular cousins which are all flaming orange or the red of bloodthirsty sunsets. I beg to differ; it may not be drop-dead spectacular but when the rising sun glitters across the frosty, dew-spattered leaves, it is breathtaking.

A good tree for a slightly wilder part of the garden. It is also excellent for bonsai if you feel so inclined.



Discuss this blog post

Talkback: The field maple
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

Gardeners' World Web User 28/10/2010 at 12:14

We have a climbing hydrangia outside our back doors which is almost up to the bathroom window. Yesterday, with the sun shining on its yellow leaves it looked glorious. Unfortunatly they are dropping fast so we are making the most of it while we can.

Gardeners' World Web User 30/10/2010 at 10:26

I went out this morning and photographed red acers and yellow limes and noticed that even the oak trees have spectacular colour this year and a beautiful buttercup yellow is showing on one of my alpine shrubs, a Japanese willow. Everyone should be looking out the bus window this year at the trees as, in Bristol anyway, the cherries and horse chestnuts are glorious.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/11/2010 at 14:18

can anyone tell me how i get veg that look as good as the ones pictured on page 84 of the gardeners world mag for november 2010,theres not a blemish, no holes, or discolouration, carrot,spring cabbage, red cabbage, leegs, beetroot.But i can understand why they cant keep a straight line

Gardeners' World Web User 04/11/2010 at 14:20

can anyone tell me how i get veg that look as good as the ones pictured on page 84 of the gardeners world mag for november 2010,theres not a blemish, no holes, or discolouration, carrot,spring cabbage, red cabbage, leeks, beetroot.But i can understand why they cant keep a straight line

Gardeners' World Web User 05/11/2010 at 09:01

i have a few pots of nerine's about five or six bulbs in each pot this year i only had a few flowers any reason why ?

See more comments...