There are more than 100 species of Acer throughout the world, but none are native to Ireland. Also known as maple, they are perhaps one of the most popular types of trees planted by gardeners.
The fruit of Acer species is a two winged dry fruit which is light and can be carried by the wind to aid dispersal of the seeds. The fruits are often called helicopters due to their habit of twirling when they fall from the tree.
Acer pseudoplatanus, commonly known as sycamore, is often regarded as a weed by gardeners as it self seeds freely and has gone wild. Within the species there are a number of varieties that have become popular with gardeners including the pink tinged new growth of A. pseudoplatanus ‘Brilliantissimum’ and the compact globe shaped crown of A. pseudoplatanus ‘Globosum’.
The Norway Maple looks very similar and is widely planted as it is a very hardy and wind tolerant species but does not spread by seed in the same way as sycamore.
The most widely planted species of maple in Irish gardens is A. palmatum. This is a variable species with low compact shrubs and small upright trees occurring. Many varieties have dark red leaves and most produce attractive autumnal tints before the leaves fall.