the genus Acer is the only one of the family Aceraceae, rich in 150 species.
Etymology: "Acer" is of Indo-European origin and means "sharp, pointed".
Origin and species: the family of maples is very large. The maples of European origin come:
- from mountains of Europe, from the Tertiary (63 M of years):
Norway Maple, Acer platanoïdes
Sycamore or Maple False Plane tree, Acer pseudoplatanus
Hedge Maple, Acer campestre, rather frequent in the campaign, but often ill,
- from the Mediterranean periphery:
Maple with leaves of opulus or Duret Maple, Acer opalus. This name "with opulus leaves" is inappropriate, because it is, in the opposite, Viburnum opulus, with a leaf resembling that of the duret maple.
Maple of Montpellier, Acer monspessulanum, which supports cold nevertheless.
There are many American species (example sugar maple) leaves of which saw in the bright red, in autumn, and Asiatic, notably Japanese species, leaves of which have more than 5 lobes and which are less high. In very 115 species.
Maple of Crete, Acer sempervirens, Acer creticum, oriental Acer is the only maple not to lose its leaves in winter. It is a tree species, close to Acer monspessulanum, endemic in Crete and Greece, and growing in the east of the Mediterranean basin (Lebanon and Western Turkey). It measures 6-7 m tall, sometimes less; his branches are dense and in ovoid form. Its small leaves (2 cm of 4) green shining and thick are composed of 3 lobes.

Habitat : the European maples like light or half shade. They can sucker from roots. The Norway Maple is less demanding in fertility and in light than the Sycamore. In forests, they are next to Oaks, to Beeches, to Elms and to Lindens. The smallest, Field Maple of the European maples, is often attacked by diseases.
Hardiness: zone 6 (maples support cold until -23 °C or -9 °F).
Form (insulated tree): the big European Maples have a broad crown. The old Norway maple has an ovoid crown.
Rate of Growth: the sycamore maple has a less quick growth than the Norway maple. They have the bad taste to spread by themselves with winds that carry the seeds (dispersion property they share with the tree of heaven and black locust).

Maples are in deciduous foliage. The leaves are always opposed and in decussate arrangement (that is, two pairs are in order by turning 90 ° in plan). Their form is almost lobbed always (3-9 lobes). The sycamore maple has feature to produce on the young shoots, leaves of form different from that of grown-up leaves (this distinctive is said "heterophyllous"). In autumn, before falling, the leaves of maples pass by all nuances going yellow to red.
Flowers with 8 stamens are small and melliferous (they attract honeybees). They are all characterised by winged dry fruits (samaras), glued together by two (disamareses, commonly called 'helicopters '). The wind transports them to spread the aerie of distribution of the maple.

Legends and traditions:
In Greek mythology, the Maple is devoted to Phobos, God of Terror.
Illiade tells that the Trojan horse was fabricated in Maple. In Celtic astrology, the maple represents somebody overflowing with imagination and with originality, timid and reserved...
Uses: the Roman spears were in Acer. More recently, the Maple was used for the plane aircraft propellers and cutting boards.
- clear wood and fine grain of the Norway maple and the harder wood of the Sycamore (easy polishing) are also used in sculpture, cabinetry (maple burl) with violin (violin-1, guitar) by turning (tool handles), carpentry, flooring, for the toys.
- Planning: planted as street trees and parks.
- Food: maple syrup production and beer (sap: 5% granulated sugar) packaging of certain cheese (leaf).
- excellent firewood.

(1) The violin is made up of about 80 different pieces. Its main parts are the wooden soundboard usually made of spruce (Picea abies (L.) H. Karst.) and the background in one or two pieces, split and stick traditionally made of sycamore maple. Luthiers have selected maple for its unique wood wave, where alternating light and dark lines gives a very particular aesthetic effect and finish slightly undulating feel. This is not the only quality of the wood. Indeed in the manner of a corrugated sheet of which waves provide rigidity to the plate in the direction of the ripples, waves of wooden provide rigidity to the vault of the instrument in its width. They are so many lines of force of sound transmission which give in violin a large portion of its acoustic qualities.

Continuation: table of differences and pictures


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