Maple tree families include very wide species of trees and shrubs, as there are no less than at least one hundred and twenty five varieties growing all around the world. Most of them are from Asia but there are several maple tree species native from Europe, Africa and North America. They grow up to forty meters high (approximatively 130 ft), but the shrubs species are much smaller and will never grow more than ten meters. Maple trees are deciduous, but there are some exceptions to this general feature, encountered in Asia and in the Mediterranean and they are evergreen.
The maple tree is tolerant to shadow, this means that it can grow undisturbed below larger trees until size allows it to reach sunlight directly. This great tree distinguishes itself by its leaves which are palmate and lobed with a number of veins varying between three and nine. Maple tree flowers have a maximum of five sepals with a length varying between one and six millimeters, and they include no more than ten stamens and two pistils. The maple tree blooms immediately after the leaves bud and the flowers are red, orange or yellow. Even if maple flowers are very small when counted together they can be a real source of pollen for early bees and other insects.
The maple tree has a distinctive fruit called samaras or maple keys, and seeds appear in different pairs, thus each one has a seed covered in a nutlet with an attached wing so that it be carried by the wind on large distances. These fruit are mature within six months after flowers appear, and most maple tree seeds need stratification for germination, which explains why it can take years for a maple tree seed to germinate. Maple trees are planted in many gardens and cities with temperate climate and the only reason for their popularity lies in the beauty of their leaves and the gorgeous color show they orchestrate in spring and in autumn. One of the most popular maple tree variety is the Norway species which has an accelerated growth rate and is very cold resistant.
Maple trees are very highly appreciated in the art of bonsai growing and only some of the varieties are used for the purpose, after a close selection process. As curious as it may sound, there are “tree collectors” that enjoy growing different maple tree varieties in their gardens. Maples also make a unique touristic attraction as they change colors in a unique way. The Japanese even have a leaf watching custom. Kyoto and Nikko are the best destinations for this old tradition, and the tradition is also vivid in Korea where they call it Danpung Nori.