1265 Acer campestreCommon Names: hedge maple,field maple Family: Aceraceae (maple Family)
Hedge maple, the species, is a slow growing, smallish tree that typically gets around 35 ft (10 m) tall with a similar spread. Occasional specimens have topped out at 80 ft (24 m) in height. The crown is rounded and dense. The dull green leaves are 2-4 in (5-10 cm) long and have three or five broad, rounded lobes. Sometimes the middle lobed has three lobes of its own. Leaves are borne opposite each other on the stems, and they are fuzzy beneath. The petioles bleed a milky latex when severed. Leaves usually turn a clear yellow in autumn. The fruits are samaras whose paired wings are held horizontally, pointing straight out from each other, rather than as an inverted V, like most maples. Three botanical varieties are recognized, differing mainly in leaf characteristics and geographical distribution.
More than a dozen selections have been named. For smaller hedges, there is ‘Compactum’ (aka ‘Nanum’), which is multi-stemmed and grows wider than tall. It gets just 2-4 ft (60-120 cm) tall but 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) wide. ‘Elsrijk’ has a cone shaped habit with smaller leaves that are packed very densely. It is widely used for street plantings in European cities. ‘Albo-variegatum’ has leaves with white blotches. ‘Eastleigh Weeping’ is a weeping maple with pendulous branches. ‘Fastigiatum’ is the opposite of weeping, with branches that grow upright. ‘Schwernii’ has purple leaves.
Acer campestre is native to western Asia and Europe, including the British Isles, where it is a component of the iconic hedgerows that line many of the roads in the countryside. Also known as field maple, hedge maple can be found growing wild in fields and on dry, rocky hillsides.
Light: Hedge maple does well in partial shade to full sun. Moisture: Hedge maple likes a well drained soil and does best on soils that are neutral to calcareous. Established specimens are tolerant of dry periods. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8 . Zone 4 might be a stretch for hedge maple unless it gets some protection in winter. The cultivar, ‘Compactum’ is less hardy and best in zones 6-8. Propagation: Seeds should be sown outdoors as soon as they ripen. Stored seed must be rehydrated, then stratified in cool, damp sand for 2-3 months before it will germinate. Cultivars are grafted or budded onto seedlings of the species.
The neat, rounded shape makes hedge maples ideal for specimen shrubs in smaller landscapes. Their dense foliage suits them ideally for hedges, both formal and informal. The well known hedgerows of England often include this species. On the Continent, hedge maple is often used in naturalistic gardens and informal rustic hedging. Their slow growth rate makes the taller varieties popular as street trees. It doesn’t hurt that they are tolerant of air pollution, soil compaction and poor soils. Hedge maple forms a dense crown that is often branched all the way from the ground, up. They take well to severe pruning and are often used in topiary, as well as bonsai. Their long lasting fall color is an added bonus.
Although not commonly cultivated in the US, hedge maples occasionally are used as specimens in smaller landscapes and in parks. Their shorter stature is an asset around utility lines.
Probably no maple is more tolerant of dry chalky soils, drought, and air pollution than the versatile and picturesque hedge maple.
Steve Christman July 3, 2016