Norway maple “Crimson King”
Readers of this column may recall that Norway maple (‘Acer platanoides’) was featured as the “Tree of the Week” back in April. At the time, our Norway maples were bursting with their bright green (chartreuse!) flowers that appear before the leaves and dazzle us with early spring color.
Now, it’s mid-July, and most of our Norway maples are looking green, lush and healthy. This has been a real treat, since in the past several years, maples and other trees were hit hard by winter moth, an invasive insect that chews up buds and early leaves on trees. Winter moth and a three-year severe drought left many of our trees stressed and looking pretty sad. But this year, winter moth populations were lower, and we have had plentiful rainfall, so our maples and other trees are stronger and are more fully leafed out.
One type of Norway maple that is looking splendid this year is a variety called ‘Crimson King’. Crimson King and similar varieties have leaves that are a glossy burgundy to deep purple, almost blackish above, paler on the underside, with five lobes, 3 to 5 inches long and wide. A tip to help in identification of Norway maples, including Crimson King, is that the leaf stems produce a milky sap that looks a lot like Elmers glue when the leaf is separated from the branch. Try it, it’s fun!
The fruits are winged seeds called samaras, which ripen and fall from the tree in September and October. This month, the colors of the samaras are a gorgeous combination of greens and bronzy-burgundy, and like the leaves are worth a close-up look, for sure.
The burgundy foliage of Crimson King and similar varieties of Norway maple present an excellent contrast to green-leafed maples, oaks and other trees in summer. They provide deep shade, which feels darker and cooler than under other shade trees.
Crimson Kings are scattered throughout Medford, singly and in groups. Several dozen are looking quite handsome at Oak Grove Cemetery. The tree in the photo is one of six Crimson Kings (or a similar type of Norway maple) that are interplanted with green-leafed Norway maples along the Winslow Ave side of Carr Park. Enjoy!
– Submitted by Aggie Tuden, Medford Tree Warden