maple defined in 1944 yearmaple - Maple;
maple - G. Bergahorn; F. Erable; E. Siccamoir or Crann Ban; Scots, Plane. The name Sycamore arises from confusion with Sycomorus, an Eastern fig tree.
Remarkable for its erect growth in the most exposed positions, the sycamore develops a stout bole of large size, topped by an interlaced network of stout angular branches. The twigs are readily identified in winter by the opposite greenish buds, each with a broad horse-shoe shaped leaf-scar below it. The bark of the twigs is grey or brown and smooth, apart from the prominent lenticels, and the bark of the trunk and older branches is similarly smooth and of a dull bluish grey colour. It may be distinguished from that of the beech by the way in which it falls away in plates. The sap, especially in spring, contains much sugar and is sweet to the taste. Maple sugar is obtained from allied species in Canada.
The large long-stalked leaves have 5 lobes, besides minor indentations, and appear in April. They are dull green in colour, occasionally marked by black spots due to fungal attack, and turn yellow before falling in October. The flowers appear in May, in long pendulous racemes, golden green in colour. The perfect flowers have each 5 sepals, 5 petals, 8 stamens and 2 carpels; but in some flowers the stamens or the carpels are suppressed. Abundant nectar attracts the insects which effect pollination.
Each carpel ripens a single seed, and hence these are borne normally in pairs, the rounded seed, about an eighth of an inch long, being attached to a membranous wing an inch long in all. The sharp angle between the two winged, seeds distinguishes the sycamore from allied species. The seeds are spread by wind, Mid are usually borne in abundance every year; they ripen early - about August, but many do not fall before October.
The sycamore is native throughout Central Europe, but was not introduced into Britain until about the time of the Tudors. It is thoroughly at home in the British climate, and reproduces itself freely from seed, but as the seed does not fly far, its distribution to the farthest corners of these islands has depended on human agency. In Europe, mountainous regions form its chief habitat.
The seed is collected from, or beneath, the standing tree in autumn, and may be sown at once or stored until the following spring in a cool moist place, preferably with sand. On germination, two long, strap-shaped, bright green cotyledons appear above ground, and the first true leaves which follow them are entire, not lobed. Growth is rapid, and after a year in the seedbeds the seedlings are large enough to transplant for a further year in the nursery rows. At two years old, they should be a foot high and fit for forest use.
Sycamore is tolerant as to soil and succeeds well on chalk. Drainage must be good, but although it likes shelter and can stand a considerable amount of shade when young, it becomes storm- firm with age, and is a useful shelter tree on the most exposed of hill farms, or on the sea-coast. It does not suffer greatly from frost, and has few natural enemies. Owing to the bitter taste of the leaves, most grazing animals, and even rabbits, avoid it as a rule. It is highly tolerant of town smoke, thriving under conditions which few other trees survive; in this respect it is probably aided by its deciduous bark.
Sycamore will coppice, but the produce is not of much value. It is usually grown to large dimensions, either in the open or in mixed plantations, reaching a height of 75 feet in 80 years. The timber is of attractive appearance, white or creamy yellow in colour, without distinct heartwood. It is hard and strong, but perishable out of doors. Its texture and appearance render it most suitable for kitchen utensils, such as bowls, boards, and table tops. Selected straight logs make first-class rollers for mangles and larger machinery, as the wood does not stain textiles. Its hardness and even grain, enabling it to be worked to a durable smooth surface, are turned to account in the flooring of dance halls.
The furniture maker finds its colour of advantage in so far as it may readily be stained chemically to a wide range of colours. Exceptionally, logs develop a beautiful figure of circular zones around numerous minute pin knots. This is the " Birds-Eye Maple and to make the best use of it, such logs are peeled as veneers, by rotating them against a long knife.
In smaller sizes, sycamore may be used for turnery. It is a very good firewood. Girths up to 18 feet occur.
Sycamore has been little planted in the past, except as a park tree or in shelter-belts. Its behaviour in plantations is similar to that of the beech, except that it requires more light, and its timber has better technical qualities for modem uses. As it succeeds on a wide range of soil and situations, regenerates itself, and acts as a soil improver, and is easily and cheaply raised in the nursery, it should prove a useful species for plantations in the future.
The Norway maple (Acer platanoides L.) G. Spitzahorn, is closely allied to the sycamore, but may be distinguished by its fissured bark, leaves of more pointed outline with milky sap in their veins, flowers appearing before the leaves in erect clusters, and an obtuse angle between its two winged seeds. Native to the plains of northern Europe, it is of fairly recent introduction into Britain, where it thrives well but does not attain the same dimension as the Sycamore. Its wood has similar uses. Fig. 6c.
The field maple (Acer campestre L.) G. Feldahorn; W. Masarnen; A.-S. Mapel, is native to Britain and Europe, but is somewhat local in distribution. The small leaves are deeply lobed with rounded indentations, and a milky sap, and the light grey bark is rough-surfaced. The flowers are borne at the same time as the leaves, in erect or drooping panicles; the broad seed wings lie in a straight line.
The Field Maple is most commonly found in hedges as a shrub or small tree. Its growth is too small to provide timber, except in small sizes for stakes or turnery work. Fig. 5.
Other species of Maple occur in southern Europe, western Asia, Japan, and North America, and are frequently cultivated in Britain as ornamental trees.
Acer negundo L., from North America, is distinguished by its compound leaves.
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