In the wild, field maple is most often found in the south-east of England and Wales as far north as the Cheviot Hills but it has been planted as hedging in many parts of the country. It occurs naturally in woodland and scrub.
The five-lobed leaves have a strong red flush when they first open and turn a brilliant, golden-yellow in autumn. The flowers are small and greenish, but the red seeds are more attractive and conspicuous. They are similar to sycamore seeds but smaller and with the wings set further apart. The twigs are pale brown and on some plants develop strange, corky ridges that run the length of the shoots. These are quite normal and are not a sign of anything wrong.
How to Grow Field Maples
Field maple has a moderate rate of growth, reaching 8m tall and 3m across after 10 years, 20m x 6m in 20 years and 25m x 12m when full grown. Field maple is very tolerant of different growing conditions and will thrive in semi shade as well as full sun. It is equally happy on clay or limestone soils. Individual trees can develop into attractive specimens, or they can be grown in small groups, as part of a wood or as a hedge.
Field maple is a food plant for the extraordinary-looking caterpillars of the sycamore moth. These have white spots along their backs and are covered in punk-like tufts of yellow hair, some with red tips. The adult moth is a disappointing light grey. The flowers provide nectar for bees and the seeds are eaten by birds and mammals such as mice and voles.