Friday, September 11, 2020

Maple Trees in Colorado

By Cherie Luke

Maple trees belong to the family Sapindaceae and the Genus Acer. There are approximately 128 kinds of maple trees which are easily recognized by their palmate leaves.

Having grown up in the east where maple trees are plentiful, I was happy to discover a maple trees that is native to the west, plus one non-native that will grow well at my 7,600’ elevation. Not only do I think they are a beautiful tree but I covet having deciduous leaves to use as leaf mulch to improve the soil in my gardens.

At the Denver Botanic Gardens plant sale a few years ago, I happened to find Acer grandidentatum, Bigtooth maple, in the “Grown at the Gardens” section. This tree started out 2 feet tall and now after about 6 years is 10 feet tall. It may well reach 20’-30’ tall. This is my favorite tree.

Tatariun Maple (Acer tataricum) 
Bigtooth maple may also be known as Wasatch Maple where its native habitat is located in the Wasatch Mountains. This mountain range stretches from Wyoming into Colorado and along the Utah border.

Another maple tree that I enjoy growing in my landscape is a Plant Select maple called Acer tataricum. This maple is expected to grow 15’-18’ tall and wide. This tree is native to southwestern Europe and western Asia. It has adapted well here because it doesn’t mind our alkaline soils, our semi- arid climate, and because it holds up well to storm damage. It’s beautiful red samaras (seed pods) are very attractive in the summer. In the fall the foliage turns a stunning red, yellow, and orange.

If you do not have any maple trees growing in your landscape, these are two you may want to try.

For more information about trees see CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.423 Trees and Shrubs for Mountain Areas

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