Tatarian Maple (Acer tataricum): Bark, leaves, Size, Lifespan – Identification Guide

Acer tataricum, the Tatar maple or Tatarian maple, is a species of maple widespread across central and southeastern Europe and temperate Asia, from Austria and Turkey east as far as Japan and the Russian Far East. It is commonly found in woodland edges, thickets, and rocky hillsides.

The Tatarian Maple is a deciduous tree that typically grows to heights of 15 to 25 feet (4.5 to 7.5 meters). It has a rounded crown and can form a multi-stemmed shrub or a small tree. The leaves are generally 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) long and have three to five lobes, turning yellow to orange-red in the fall.

The species is named after the Tatar peoples of southern Russia; the tree’s name is similarly commonly also misspelled “Tartar” or “Tartarian” in English. It has a shorter lifespan (around 15-20 years). Other than being used in landscaping for its ornamental value, particularly its fall foliage. It is also used for erosion control and as a windbreak.

In some areas, the Tatarian Maple is considered invasive due to its ability to self-seed and spread rapidly.

Identifying Characteristics of the Tatarian Maple

  • Size: It is a deciduous spreading shrub or small tree growing to 4–12 metres (13–39 ft) tall, with a short trunk.
  • Shoots: The shoots of the Tatarian Maple are green and may have a reddish tinge when young.
  • Leaves: Medium green, simple, unlobed or with three to five shallow lobes, with coarsely serrated margins. Leaves turn yellow and red in fall. Young trees often have more deeply lobed leaves.
  • Flowers: The tree produces small, yellow-green flowers in the spring, followed by red samaras (winged seeds) in late summer to early fall.
  • Fruit: Winged samaras that turn a showy red in summer/fall before turning brown.
  • Bark: Thin, pale brown, and smooth at first, becoming shallowly fissured on older trees.

Habitat and Growing Conditions

  • This tree is considered hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8
  • It’s adaptable to a variety of soil types, including sand, loam, or clay, and tolerates a wide range of pH levels.
  • It is a low-maintenance tree that is tolerant of urban conditions.
  • The tree can grow well in full sun to partial shade.
  • It is considered to have a fast growth rate, especially when young. It can shoot up 1-2 feet (0.3-0.6 meters).
  • It is relatively disease-resistant but can be affected by pests like aphids and scale insects.

Interesting Facts about Tatarian Maple (Acer tataricum)

  • Unlike many maples known for their fiery red fall foliage, the Tatarian Maple offers a double dose of color. Its leaves turn a vibrant yellow and red in fall, creating a stunning display.
  • Compared to most maples with deeply lobed leaves, the Tatarian Maple is a bit of an oddball. Its leaves are mostly unlobed or have just a few shallow lobes, giving them a more simple, oval shape.
  • This tree boasts a fast growth rate, especially when young, reaching maturity quicker than some other maples. It also produces an abundance of showy red samaras (winged fruits) that add another layer of visual interest in summer and fall.
  • The greenish-white flowers of the Tatarian Maple might not be the most eye-catching, but they pack a punch for pollinators. These flowers are a valuable source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.
  • The Tatarian Maple is a tough tree, tolerant of drought, heat, and cold. This adaptability makes it a versatile choice for landscapers, thriving in various conditions. However, be aware of its potential to become invasive in some regions.

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