Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi

Q: My neighbor is planting a trident maple in his yard. Isn’t that the same thing as a red maple?

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Aeryn Trident Maple

Aeryn Trident Maple

A:  No, the two maples are different species. The red maple is Acer rubrum while the Trident maple is Acer buergeranum. Notice the first name, which is the genus, is the same as this identifies all maples.  However, the last name, which identifies the species, is quite different.  They are both deciduous, tolerate occasional dampness and grow well in this area.  The leaves of the Trident maple are distinct as they have only three lobes whereas the red maple has multiple lobes. Trident maples can grow to about 45-feet tall with about a 25 foot spread.  The leaves are glossy green above and paler underneath, which turn various shades of red, orange, and yellow in autumn. Flowers are bright yellow and showy in the spring. Typically Trident maples are found multi-stemmed but they can be trained to have only one central trunk. Red maples are fast growing whereas Trident maples grow at a moderate rate.  In addition, the bark of the Trident maple is orange-brown which adds winter interest once all the leaves drop.  Trident maples make good patio specimens if space is limited and are often used as bonsai plants.  Trident maple should be planted in full sun or partial shade on any well-drained, acid soil and is quite tolerant of salt, air pollution, wind, and drought. Like other maples, some chlorosis can develop in soils with pH over 7 but it is moderately tolerant of soil salt. It performs well in urban areas where soils are often poor and compacted. Trees are easily transplanted due to their shallow root system and are fairly ‘clean’ trees since they do not drop messy leaves, fruit or flowers. Several cultivars are known, with trees having dwarf growth, corky bark, variegated leaves, and a variety of leaf shapes. Some particularly good cultivars include: ‘Akebono’, ‘Goshiki Kaede’, ‘Maruba’, and ‘Mino Yatsubusa’. They have not been tested extensively in urban areas and will probably be difficult to find. For more information please check out the University of Florida publication:


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