Invasive plants: Norway maples

by Caroline Brown

In Rhode Island, Norway maples are crowding out the red maple, which is our state tree. Norway maples are beautiful in the spring & summer but in the fall, they’re somewhat of a disappointment. Unlike the red maple, which is in its glory in the fall, Norway maples only have boring yellow leaves.

The only really big tree that is within our property boundary is a huge, old, dignified Norway maple that my husband & I love. In the first picture, this is the big tree on the left and you can see how it’s branches shade our yard and our house.
Directly behind us, to the south, is a large stand of Norway maples that you can see in the second picture. You would never know that there’s a big condominium complex behind us in the summer, thanks to this Norway maple forest.

We love these trees but we curse their roots, which are heavy and make it hard for us to grow other things in our yard. Providing heavy shade coverage and having huge root masses are little survival tricks that help invasive plants thrive. See how the ground is completely bare? Nothing grows there at all, so we ended up putting stone paths down on most of this part of the yard.

Even though they’re invasive–leaving thousands (literally) of those little pesky seed-carrying “helicopters” everywhere–they provide us with shade, beauty, and privacy. The truth is, invasive or not, we would never cut the one that we own down…it’s the only big tree that we have! And we don’t own the lot behind us so we can’t do anything about those trees except enjoy the privacy that they bring us in the summer.

As you can see I have a love-hate relationship with the Norway maples. I’m trying to do my part to be a good steward of the Earth but at some point, you have to ask yourself: “OK, so they’re an invasive species and they’re causing the population of red maples to decrease. But, if I cut my tree down, and the condo association cut all their trees down, would that be prettier?”

Who would plant red maples in the forest in place of the Norway maples? In our situation, there’s simply not enough money to have the native tree. So…..we’ll continue to enjoy our Norway maples and try not to feel too guilty!


2 Responses to “Invasive plants: Norway maples”

  1. Thanks for the beautiful photos Caroline!
    I LOVE red maples, remember them well in Toronto in the fall. I don’t think Ive ever seen anything more beautiful than Allan Gardens (lots of maple trees), in the full splendour of its fall colors. It was absolutely breath-taking, especially for Prairie transplant like me who had never even seen real maple leaves before!!! The reds, oranges and yellows, with the backdrop of black bark (after the frequent rain showers there) made it even more spectacular. Talk about poetry in nature!
    Thanks for bringing this wonderful memory to mind 🙂


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