Here's a leaf just fallen to the ground in a back alley near my
A Norway maple has three effective ways of destroying your
lawn: dense summer shade, a smothering blanket of fall leaves, and a
choking network of surface roots. There are mosses that will survive
this onslaught, so treasure them. Since the way we nurture our lawns
trends to be worse for the environment than Norways are for our
lawns. Norways wouldn't be so bad except for their winged
seeds that float off into our woodlands and wreck havoc there.
In Norway, Norway maples aren't so bad because it's too cold for
them in most of the country but they have become one of the most
widespread trees in Europe.
A couple of weeks ago, a reader, Margarthe, wondered why
landscaping professionals continue to recommend
environmentally-unsafe plants like Norway maples. Plant nurseries
and landscapers are no different than other retailers: they are
trying to make a living; not save the planet. They recommend what
they think the customer will buy from what's in stock. What's in
stock reflects market trends projected several years ago by the
wholesale nurseries that actually grow the plants. The local
retailers have little input.
Most wholesalers can only mass-produce plants that propagate
easily and grow relatively fast. Also, they know that most
homeowners aren't expert horticulturists and are more comfortable in
choosing already familiar plants. Just think of the overuse of
Impatiens. Since baby trees are relatively expensive long-term
investments, people are even more likely to want to stick to the
"tried and true".
So, popularity begets popularity, regardless of actual wisdom.
This tends most pronounced with trees because the problems often
don't show up for 20 to 50 years. Sort of like smoking.
Norways were introduced to North America in the late 1700's.
George Washington is said to have bought two from a Philadelphia
importer. They became widespread around World War II when many were
planted to replace elms stricken by the Dutch Elm disease. It seemed
like a good idea at the time because Norways are one of the faster
growing hardwoods that do well as street trees (handle pollution,
live a long time, have strong branches). Today, the average home
owner sees the trees gracing the neighbor's yard and thinks: "nice
tree, but why don't they take better care of their lawn? They should
put lime on the moss and re-seed under the tree." The same person
goes hiking in the woods, and wonders about the lack of wildflowers.
The Norway maple's culpability only becomes clear once it's been