Adress
Ixelles
GPS coordinates :
50.8105 , 4.3872
Scientific inventory
Contributors :
Sylvolutions
Tree walk - Boondael

Identity

Category :
Arbre remarquable
Latin name :
Acer campestre
French name :
Erable champêtre
Dutch name :
Spaanse aak of Veldesdoorn
English name :
Field maple
Family :
Aceraceae
Height :
20 m
Targeted height :
This species can grow up to 20 m
Diameter of the crown :
12 m
Trunk circumference :
272 cm
Expected circumference :
300 cm
Expected longevity :
Can live for 150 years
Origin / Indigenous
Europe, Anatolia, Caucasus and North Africa
Favorite soil :
Chalky and light
Favorite climate
Temperate, sunny (bright) once mature
Illustrated botany © Wikimedia Commons.

Features and characters of the individual

Field maples: facts and stories

The common name ‘field maple’ is quite fitting: this tree is characteristic of the countryside in Belgium and across Western Europe.

This species used to be the king of hedgerows. It is quite discreet: it is the smallest variety of maple growing naturally in Belgium. When used in hedging, field maples mix well with other tree species and shrubs that are just as flowery. This species is also quite docile: living fences can be made by weaving the tree’s young branches while they are still flexible.

With the advent of poles and wires, hedgerows were slowly replaced and the field maple’s reign came to an end. It is regrettable that so many of these trees were torn out of the landscape, as they served as shelter for a multitude of insects and birds, as well as separating fields in a more natural way and also limiting soil erosion. Today, there is a trend to replant field maples, both in the countryside and in the city. The species is seen as a symbol of nature conservation.

Did you know?

The three types of maple tree that are native to our region are: sycamores, Norway maples and field maples.

All three look very similar! Their leaves are arranged in pairs of two, directly opposite each other on the twig. This leaf arrangement in uncommon on hardwood trees. Each leaf has indents that split it into five parts, called lobes. The term ‘palmately lobed’ is used to describe the shape of maple leaves, as the lobes are arranged like fingers on a hand. On sycamores and Norway maples, each lobe ends with a point, whereas the lobes on field maples are more rounded at the ends. Their flowers are all grouped in pretty yellow-green clusters. And lastly, the fruit on all three has the form of a winged samara.

The secret to differentiating these types of maple trees lies with their fruit! Each samara has two wings. On Norway maples, these wings are in a V-shape at an obtuse angle, and their seeds have a flattened shape—like a disc.
On sycamores, the V-shape formed by the wings is tighter and at an acute angle, and their two seeds have a more rounded shape. On field maples, the wings are pretty much aligned on the same axis.

The benefits of field maple trees

Field maples change colour throughout the year, which has a decorative effect on streets, parks and public squares. They respond well to pruning, and they’re resistant to pollution. Despite their average height, they still do well in the city. They produce oxygen and absorb air pollution. Their diffuse shade creates a milder climate in the surrounding area.

Many types of insects set up home in field maples too, not least because the tree’s flowers produce abundant nectar – a source of food for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. Insects like these are essential for all our futures.

How to recognise a field maple

Fruit

double-winged samara (seed with two wings), with each side shaped like a rhinoceros horn

Leaves

arranged in opposite pairs on the branch, with deep indents creating five lobes (palmately lobed, like a hand); leaf edge with rounded teeth; long leaf stem (petiole)

Foliage

dark green in spring/summer; coppery yellow in autumn; and no foliage in winter (deciduous)

Bark

light yellowish brown, corky and cracked

Flowers

Small, greenish yellow, and arranged in cluster

Specifics about this tree

This particular tree is remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, for a field maple, this specimen has an impressive size. In fact, it’s the second largest (in terms of both height and width) tree of this species in the whole region. It has already passed 15m in height, rivalling the neighbouring four-storey building. The residents on the top floor can see the top of the tree as it reaches higher into the sky.

Secondly, this is one of the surviving trees from when Ixelles was still countryside: it really was a field maple back then! This tree belongs to a period of heritage that has since disappeared. It therefore has significant historical value. The tree witnessed the surrounding landscape between Avenue Guillaume Gilbert and Avenue du Général Dossin de St. Georges completely transform, with the former agricultural plots and wooded areas gradually giving way to a residential neighbourhood.

This tree was planted sometime in the first decades of the 1900s, and was already visible in aerial photos taken in the 1930s (see the images from Bruciel in the gallery). At the time, this tree was at the edge of a wooded area that was slowly being eaten into. Its position was at the edge of the grounds of a grand property, with the main house standing not far from the tree. This house was knocked down in 1992 and replaced with a four-storey building – with no consideration for this tree and its size. Many branches were deemed too invasive by the new building’s residents and were ultimately removed. The tree itself was kept though.

Today, the tree accentuates the building and has a decorative effect that the whole street benefits from. Its light brown and yellow bark is particularly eye-catching, and the abundant yellow-green blossoms bring cheer and fragrance every spring. The tree also has wonderful gold foliage in autumn.

(Story and photos created by Priscille Cazin- Sylvolutions)

This portrait is:

- Enriched with an illustration from the Belgian Federal State Collection on permanent loan to the Meise Botanical Garden.

- An initiative of Christos Doulkeridis, Mayor of Ixelles , Audrey Lhoest, portfolio holder for Environment, Green Spaces and Planting, and Tourism and the Ixelles Communal executive

Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Wood Wide Web
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
Photo by Priscille Cazin (Sylvolutions) © Ixelles/Elsene
© Bruciel 1930/35
© Bruciel 1944
© Bruciel 1944
© Bruciel 1953
© Bruciel 1971
© Bruciel 1977
© Bruciel 1984
© Bruciel 1996