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The Norway Maple: New York's Ultimate Weed

Peak season for most foliage may be past but now it's time to take notice of this invasive tree, writes environmentalist David Bedell.

November is leaf season in New York state, and we are all understandably busy with the leaves at our feet. With peak foliage long past, this isn't normally time to take stock of the leaves still in the trees. This week in particular, though, is just right for looking up: What you see will illustrate very clearly how much one invasive tree is impacting our community.

The Norway maple is one of New York's ultimate weeds. Imported from Europe, it is a large tree whose leaves are very similar to the native sugar maple. The Norway maple has, unfortunately, a few characteristics which make it invasive -- destroying native ecosystems, causing trouble in yards and gardens, and creating visual blight. The tree's dense canopy shades out virtually all other plants and its roots secrete chemicals that inhibit the growth of competitors. It spreads prolifically to form pure stands that are completely opague. If you have a spot in your lawn where grass will not grow, there is a good chance the Norway maple growing overhead is responsible. The dense canopy blocks views that a native tree's more open canopy would preserve. And most insidious, the diversity and function of our local natural places is replaced with a sterile monotony.

So keep your eyes peeled this week for trees with yellow leaves (some with a greenish tint) still on their branches. The tree is almost surely a Norway maple. It may be that every tree in your back yard is a Norway maple -- you certainly have a few seedlings. And the extent to which they have taken over parks and roadsides is amazing. If you need a place to start, look on the Aqueduct Trail, the cliff above the parking lot at the Philipse Manor train station, or along any wooded roadside, as the local photos that accompany this article illustrate.

In the spring, when this fall's raking has been long forgotten, we can work together and try to do something about one of Westchester's ultimate weeds. 

- David Bedell, Chair, Village of Sleepy Hollow Environmental Advisory Council

Jaques Strape November 15, 2011 at 09:57 PM
But heaven forbid you cut it down if it's more than an inch in diameter. You better get your permit from the stupid tree commission, or whatever regulatory board/money grab the village has implemented.
Elaine Marranzano November 16, 2011 at 12:50 PM
David, thank you for your interesting story! Please do more like this.
Red Cat November 20, 2011 at 04:16 AM
Which other trees are considered weeds?

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