Belfast Botanic Gardens Tree Archive

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This series of short articles about trees in the Belfast Botanic Gardens is compiled by members of the Friends group and Gardens staff. We aim to build up to a comprehensive archive of trees in Belfast Botanic Gardens. Each article illustrates a tree growing in Belfast Botanic Gardens together with information from a range of sources. Where possible we will give the tree tag number - these are the small aluminium discs, usually fixed on the tree trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.
Acer monspessulanum
Montpellier maple

Tag 494 & 497
54deg 34.984/8N
5deg 55.904/17W
This small-leaved maple is a native of the Mediterranean area from Portugal to Turkey, SW Asia, and N. Africa. It is fairly rare in cultivation particularly in the north of the British Isles. There is a mature specimen in the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. Although not much grown in gardens it is popular with bonsai enthusiasts because of its small leaves. It is superficially like our native field maple (Acer campestre) in its small leaves and growth habit.However, the leaves are distinctly shiny, three-lobed (without teeth) unlike those of the field maple which are matt and can be 5 lobed. When the leaves are broken the sap is colourless whereas that of Acer campestre leaves is milky.The flowers of the Montpellier maple are a bright yellow and in a good year can rival those of Acer opalus which grows nearby in Belfast Botanic Gardens. The seeds are a typical maple double winged structure (a samara); in this case the wings are close together. Although a plant of hot dry Mediterranean hills it appears to be completely hardy in Ireland having survived the recent two severe winters 2009/10 and 2010/11. There are two trees, close together, in Belfast Botanic Gardens beside the path from the Botanic Gate to the primary school gate.
Acer monspessulanum in Belfast Botanic Gardens in spring Montpellier maple in summer
Detail of flowers of Acer monspessulanum Glossy leaves of Acer monspessulanum
Winged seeds of Acer monspessulanum Bark of Acer monspessulanum
Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2011. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.

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