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Acer campestre or maple opium
Also called Acero opio, it is a medium-sized tree, found naturally throughout Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. The development is quite fast in the first years of life of the plant, later it becomes slow, and brings the tree up to a height of 6-9 meters, making it interesting even for gardens not too large.
It produces a short stubby, stocky, with gray or brown bark, deeply fissured in the elderly specimens; the foliage is palmate, with five lobes, as in most maples, sometimes it has only three lobes; the dimensions are slightly smaller than the leaves of other maple species, the color is bright green, it becomes golden in autumn, before the leaves fall. In spring it produces small greenish, hermaphroditic flowers, carried in apical inflorescences; in summer the flowers are followed by the fruits, of the samaras, or small flattened seeds that have a long papyrus wing, which allows the seeds to be carried by the wind even for long journeys. The field maple samaras are paired and inserted at 180 ° on the petiole that carries them, practically they are attached "back to back".
How to grow maple opium
The field maple or maple opium is a tree found in nature in most of the peninsula, from the Po valley to Lake Trasimeno, up to the Sila; therefore it is a tree that tolerates winter frost well, as well as summer heat, without showing any kind of suffering. It tends to settle for any terrain, preferring alkaline or neutral ones, even if compact or stony.
It prefers sunny or semi-shady places, especially in the early stages of life it loves the shade, which allows young shoots to grow better.
It does not fear drought, and can also withstand slightly saline soil, near the sea, as well as the sea wind, which often ruins most of the plants.
It does not require great care, even if, as always happens with trees, it is good to place the young plants with a nice tutor, so that they develop straight, without fearing the veto, until they have produced a beautiful root system .
In the first years of life it is also good to water the plant, at the time of planting, and later in the summer, especially in the case of drought; it is not a tree that needs a moist soil, therefore we water only if the soil remains dry for long periods of time.
How to use it
Field maple is often used in parks or as street trees; often it produces many branches in the lower part of the stem, so much so that it is often used as a hedge shrub. This feature sometimes makes it necessary to prune the lower branches in gardens or along roads, to allow passage near the stem.
This tree easily supports pruning, so it is not difficult to maintain the desired shape.
The maple opium is often used also as bonsai, since it responds very well to the common miniaturization techniques used by the bonsaists; moreover also the specimens cultivated in pot show the characteristics of the brothers placed in the open ground: they bear cold, heat, drought, drastic pruning.
Often the bonsaists use the variety acer campestre microphyllum, with more contained foliage than the species.
We plant the rural acer
Even in street trees we happen to notice: the town has 15 new trees planted, the following year there are only seven, and the others have not even taken root.
This happens because the differences between an old tree and a young tree are underestimated. Even plants that from old can be left to themselves, as young people need care, perhaps few, but without them they cannot develop.
In nature a seed of field maple falls into the undergrowth, where it develops protected initially by the stones, which even in the desert guarantee a little water; growing however it remains in a partially shaded place, protected by other shrubs or trees, which shield it from the sun more scorching. Only the adult specimen remains alone in the sun.
When we plant a young tree, which is often no more than a couple of meters high, let us remember that it was recently uprooted, or it was taken from a vase; this means that it has a small root system, not very developed; moreover in nurseries it was looked after daily, with watering, fertilizing, pesticides.
If it is true that a well-developed tree that has long been a dwelling does not need care, it is satisfied with the rains, it tends not to get sick; this is not so true for a young tree.
So if we want a beautiful, healthy and robust maple, let's start by preparing a nice planting hole, working the soil deeply, mixing fresh and little manure soil; then we position the plant, avoiding to bury it too much, but position it at the same depth to which it was in the nursery, with the foot we compact the soil around the stem, and water well.
Maple opium - Acer campestre: Tips for planting
Next to the tree we place a nice sturdy guardian, which we will secure to the plant with raffia or with a nursery string, not too tight, to avoid marking the trunk during its development. In summer we check that the soil around the plant does not remain dry for days and days. If necessary we prune the branches that are developing in a position of little interest to us; for example we raise the branches too low if we want our maple to develop a beautiful erect stem without any branches. It seems trivial, but many nurserymen will confirm that it is not so much so: before placing a tree in our garden, we verify that it has all the space it needs over time; if it is true that the field maple can be safely pruned, if we place it in a small flowerbed pretending to keep it two meters high and as wide, we will have to arm ourselves with patience and prune it every two months to keep it in the years of such measures. Before choosing a plant by looking at photographs on the internet, we read the dimensions that it will reach over time, so we will be sure of planting the right plant for the space we have available.