OF the estimated ten species of maple which are native to Europe only one, the field maple, managed to migrate north into England before Britain became isolated from continental Europe by water.
And it left it to the last minute (metaphorically speaking), crossing when the land bridge was mostly a chalk ridge then slowly spreading on lime-rich soils as far north as Durham, Cumbria and possibly southern Scotland. Why was it late in colonising the land exposed by the receding glaciers? We all have likes and dislikes and one of field maple’s is that it likes to seed under existing vegetation. It is tolerant of shade when young, so it waited for woodland cover to be provided by other more pioneering plant species. It grows quickly initially but is usually dominated by other tree species as a forest matures, so it would probably mostly have been found on the margins of the wildwood.
The name ‘maple’ derives from the c.1300 Old English mapultreow. The trees generic name, Acer, was both the Latin noun for a maple tree and an adjective meaning sharp or pointed, reflecting the fact that the wood can be shaved to a sharp point. The specific name, campestre, means of the fields, which reminds us that the tree is more light demanding as it grows older so is more likely to be found growing in open ground rather than in woodland.
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