Acer monspessulanum L.

Montpellier maple

Family: Sapindaceae
54º 34.984/8N
5º 55.904/17W

The tree tag number relates to the black tree-maintenance tags, usually fixed on the trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.

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 similar to our native field maple (Acer campestre) in its small leaves and in its growth habit. 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. We are fortunate to have two specimens in Belfast Botanic Gardens, close together beside the path from the Botanic Gate to the primary school gate.

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2011. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.