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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Acer pseudoplatanus 'Atropurpureum' - Purple Sycamore Maple

I am going on a quick purple leaved tree diversion, having run across one of  these and a Purple Norway Maple in the same day. Yikes, dont see many of either trees here in SC, what are the odds? Add a purple birch and I am off.

The sycamore maples are native to Europe. The name suggests that they must look like a sycamore tree. Okay, so the scientific name is Acer pseudoplatanus or false maple. The common sycamore's name is (was) acerfiolia acer-like.... So you have a maple that looks like a sycamore and a sycamore that looks like a maple.... now, add in the Norway Maple, A. platanoides or platanus-like (the genus name of the sycamore is of course Platanus) .... and you have circle of names, not sure who is making this stuff up, but its no me.

Anyway, loved seeing this tree. I was on Western Dr and thought I was looking at a purplish large leaved maple (A. macrophyllum) as they can come out of winter with a nice purple tinge but this is June 25th and hardly spring, so I stopped and noticed the lower surface of the leaves and the fruit and it was very clear what this tree was.

The purple sycamore maples are common trees in northern landscapes as well in the midwest and east cost (so everywhere but here). They form a large rounded or oval canopy reaching 40 -50' tall and 30+ wide while casting a pretty dense shade. This is a planting of several cultivars from an English garden. The one on right is an example.

Leaves are opposite, simple, 3-5" long, palmately lobed with 5 lobes (3 strong lobes and 2 weaker ones). The lobes are pretty shallow, and lightly toothed, not long bristles like the norway maples.  Upper surface is tough, leathery, dark green while the lower surface is red to pink colored. Upper surface may also have lots of little raised blisters from a midge gall.

Stems are stout. Buds plump, with a dark line on the edge.

Bark is smooth till older then exfoliating in thin sheets.

Flowers are very much like A. macrophyllum, hanging down in long chains. Attractive yet often overlooked.

Fruit is a samara, in pairs, about an inch long. The fruit develops a very nice red to pink color along with some green before they mature to a light brown. The pairs form an angle of about 60 degrees.

Very interesting tree for the color of the foliage when viewed from below.

Fall color is pretty nice as well.

Misidentifiaction: Sycamores (alternate leaves) norway maple (5-7 bristle tipped lobes), Bigleaf Maple (very deeply dissected lobes, leaves tend to be much larger.

Santa Cruz. 1000 Western Drive. Multiple stems, showing a nice foliage canopy in June.

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