The field maple, Acer campestre, is the UK's only native maple tree. Typically found growing in woods and hedgerows, it's a medium-sized, deciduous tree with a rounded, bushy crown. It has attractive lobed leaves that turn golden yellow in autumn, and tiny flowers in spring that are followed by papery winged fruits, known as samaras. The RHS has awarded it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit.
Field maple is often grown as a dense hedge, and makes a good windbreak. Expect it to put on around 30-60cm of growth a year. Field maples also make good trees for privacy.
As a British native, field maple is excellent for wildlife. Moth caterpillars feed on the young spring leaves, while bees are attracted to the pollen- and nectar-rich flowers. The sap is attractive to aphids, and therefore their predators, including ladybirds and lacewing larvae. Small mammals eat the fruits.
Field maples are tolerant of pollution so make good trees for urban environments. They can live for up to 350 years.
How to grow field maple
Grow field maple in any moist but well-drained soil, in sun or partial shade. When grown as a tree it doesn't need pruning, but if growing as a hedge, prune in early winter to keep it at the desired height.
Field maple: jump links
Where to grow field maple
Grow field maple in a medium or large garden, or as part of a hedge. It's suitable for exposed sites and urban environments.
How to plant field maple
To plant a field maple tree:
- Stand the tree in water to ensure its roots are damp
- Dig a square hole that’s slightly wider than the pot your tree is in, but no deeper. Lightly fork the base and sides of the hole to ensure the soil isn’t compacted
- Remove the pot from container-grown trees and any wrapping from bare-root ones. Tease out and unwind any circling roots. Stand the tree in the planting hole, then lay a cane across the hole to check that the top of the rootball is level with the soil surface
- Backfill around the rootball with the excavated soil, shaking the tree a little to help the soil settle around the roots. Use your heel to firm gently all around the rootball and ensure there is good contact between the roots and the soil
- If planting in an exposed site, stake the tree to prevent windrock, which can tear the roots and create a gap around the base of the trunk that can fill with water and encourage rot. The stake should be about a third of the height of the tree, hammered in at a 45° angle. Attach the trunk to the stake using an adjustable tree tie
- Water the tree thoroughly, then keep it watered during dry spells for at least the first year
Read our detailed guide to planting trees.
To plant a field maple hedge:
- This is best done in winter, with bare-root plants.
- Trim the roots to encourage more healthy growth
- Dig a V-shaped trench, using a line of string to ensure it is straight
- Insert the bare-root plants, around 45cm apart, at the same depth as they were previously (look for the 'tide mark' on the stem)
- Firm in well and water
Read more about planting a bare-root hedge.
Caring for field maple
Field maple does not need pruning. If you're growing it as a hedge, prune it in early winter to keep it at the desired height.
Growing field maple: problem solving
Aphids can be found on field maple but these are nothing to worry about and will be eaten by predators.
Verticillium wilt can affect field maple. This is a soil-borne fungal disease that causes yellow, wilting leaves, especially in dry weather, and dieback on stems or branches. There's no chemical control. You could try cutting out affected areas and feeding the plant, but as the problem persists in the soil, the only solution may be to dig up and destroy your plant.
Advice on buying field maple
- Field maple can be grown as a tree or a hedge. Hedging is usually sold bare-root, between November and March. Bare-root trees are also available in winter, pot-grown trees are available all year round
- If buying a tree, look for a nicely shaped crown and no signs of pests or disease
- Hedging is sold as individual plants or bundles, so check before buying