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A late-deciduous shrub or tree to 10 m, often much smaller. Bark grey to brown, roughly fissuring with age. Branchlets glabrous, occasionally tomentose, brown. Buds ovoid, small, with many pairs of imbricate scales, brown, ciliate with grey hairs. Leaves coriaceous, base truncate to rounded, entire to 3-lobed, 1–2 × 2–5 cm, lobes oblong to ovate, apex obtuse to acute, margins entire to undulate with few teeth, upper surface dark to bright green, lower surface paler, glabrous; petiole 0.3–1 cm long, green; autumn colours yellow to brown, often none. Inflorescence corymbose, erect, few flowered, 1.5 cm long. Flowers greenish-yellow, 5-merous, stamens 8. Samaras 1–1.5 cm long, red, wings spreading variously; nutlets rounded. Flowering from March to April, with the new leaves, fruiting later. (Krüssmann 1984; van Gelderen et al. 1994; le Hardÿ de Beaulieu 2003; Gregory 2009).
Distribution Greece Turkey
Habitat Maquis and forest edges in dry areas above 1500 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 7-8
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
First known in cultivation before it was formally described, Acer sempervirens was introduced by Professor Joseph Pitton de Tournefort who planted a specimen at the Jardin des Plantes, Paris in 1702 (Jacobson 1996). Here also grows the oldest known plant in cultivation, planted in 1732 and measured at 10 m tall in 2014 (monumentaltrees.com 2018). It was first planted in Britain in 1752, at the Chelsea Physic Garden by Philip Miller (Gregory 2009), and while it must surely have been sent to North America sooner, the earliest confirmed date given by Jacobson (1996) is 1964. He adds that it remained ‘extremely rare’ there even by the late 1990s.
Infrequent but more common than the related A. obtusifolium, a fine, broad example grows on the Whiteknights Campus of the University of Reading, Berkshire, predating the University and a remnant of when the estate was owned by the Marquis of Blandford. A specimen in Tortworth Churchyard, a stone’s throw from the famous Tortworth Chestnut, was planted in 1898 and grows above the grave of the former head gardener at Tortworth Court, Thomas Shingles. An exceptional, small, toothed-leaved example grows against the corner of the main building in the courtyard at Arboretum Wespelaar, Belgium (pers. obs). This was collected in the Parnon Mountains of Greece at 1500 m. It appears quite happy in its location and flowers prolifically (Arboretum Wespelaar (ed) 2018). The species is arguably at its best in spring, when clothed in flowers and fresh foliage, though it is also striking later on, when the darkened, glossy foliage is contrasted by the bright red, ripening fruits. Distinguishing features between this species and A. obtusifolium are given in the account for that species.