Sarah and I do gripe and moan and complain about the Norway maples (Acer platanoides) we’re each forced to share our gardens with.
In the city’s urban forest, Norway maples represent 26% of Toronto’s street tree population; likely higher in the old city of Toronto (as it was before amalgamation). That’s not counting the volunteer “fence trees” – where the prolific Norway maple seedlings have set up residence. It’s the Norway’s darned fecundity that makes it such a nuisance, not only in our gardens, but in our ravines and other naturalized areas. In short, they take over.
They’re big, hongry critters, too. Bullies, really. As soon as the leaves come out, they drink and feast (and drink and drink) on the same sparse few inches of topsoil as our garden perennials and shrubs – or our wild native plants – are trying to dine on. And they cast a deep shade.
But, for now at least, we have to live with them. While the shade they create may be lousy for Sarah’s and my ridiculous fantasies of English gardens, they keep our street and homes cool. They contribute to the stately feel of our street. They withstand city pollution, and contribute to the daily rehabilitation of city air.
And when they bloom, as the fence tree in my neighbour’s back yard has just begun to do, they are frothily beautiful.
Most of the Norways in our neighbourhood (and they are mostly Norways) are octogenarians; many are starting to show their age. I’m hoping we can start a campaign now to underplant with more suitable trees, so that someone eighty years from now will have some shade to complain about… or thank me for.