Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Goodbye Norway Maple

Red Trillium
 (photo courtesy of Wildflower.org)
When we first moved to this property thirteen years ago we had a local nursery do the landscaping.  Being a traditional gardener, I always used the pretty ornamental plants sold in the nurseries.  I certainly wasn't aware there were such things as native plants; yet alone their benefits.  Walking through the yard with the landscape designer, we ended up in the shady, south side of the property.  There were lots of leaves and tons of small maple seedlings growing everywhere.  The designer suggested we pull up the maple seedlings and see what came up naturally.  So my wife and I spent several hours over a couple of weekends clearing the area of the ubiquitous seedlings.  Looking back, I realize her livelihood was selling hybridized, nursery plants and yet she was encouraging us to see what was natural in our side yard.  So the summer goes by, followed by fall and winter as is usually does.  One late spring day, I was walking through the "south side" and noticed a different plant I had only seen in magazines.  "Hey, I think this is a Trillium."  I only knew that they were fairly expensive.  I had no idea it was a native plant.  Over the years since then I've kept a small wire guard around this plant to prevent my mower from destroying it.  This spring I'll get a good picture and see what I can do to get it to spread.

Now thirteen years later after I'd tried to mold this area to my will with exotic plants and grass, I became aware of native plants.  Of course, now I don't even want grass at all.  But I've come to realize the reason nothing grew there was that Norway Maples release platanoides, chemicals that prevent undergrowth.  They won't let other plants grow near them.  This is a Norway Maple and I don't want it.  First, it's not a native tree,  Secondly, it's invasive.  Fortunately its invasive nature is becoming more widely acknowledged.   Both New Hampshire and Massachusetts have banned its sale.   Meijer Garden Centers no longer sells it due to this characteristic.  I now know why to this day I'm constantly pulling maple seedlings from all over the yard.  For years, this tree species was one of the most popular shade trees sold in America.    And with my new found respect for ecology, this tree had to go.  This one is down and two more I discovered have to go.   So....anyone want firewood?


Tanya M said...

I didn't think about trees being invasive especially a maple....very interesting.

the Native Plant Neophyte said...

Tanya M - I was pretty disappointed too when I found this out. I planted a Black Cherry sapling today where the large Norway Maple grew. Last year I found out that Europeans took our Black Cherry tree home where it became invasive in their environment. I never thought about our plants being invasive elsewhere.

Heather Holm said...

Good for you taking the bold step of cutting down a mature tree. We had a couple of 'Crimson King' Norway Maples in our yard when we moved in. They're now gone but I still find seedlings. (Norways have milky sap if you break a leaf off and check the end of the leaf stem). I find this really helpful since I have red maples too.

the Native Plant Neophyte said...

Thanks Heather. I must say it was tough taking a down a tree that took more than 25 years to grow. But in the end it does feel good. Now for the replacements to take hold and grow mighty. That milky sap id trick has been real handy. But now I find I'm pulling a lot of leaves off young saplings to find whether they are the good or "bad" maples. I guess I should mark the keepers.