Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Yugo Of Invasive Plants

There's an interesting article from the Detroit Free Press about the waning popularity of the Norway maple (Acer platanoides) in Michigan. While big box store Meijer, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, has taken the big step of ceasing all sales of this invasive tree, not everyone is so eager to give it up. Citing its tolerance as a street tree as well as its aesthetic value, some see no reason to abandon it, while others plant it only sparingly. One thing is for sure: demand is way down for the tree, with one nursery owner saying his trees are getting so large they'll soon be burned to make way for new stock.

The article refers to the Norway maple as the "Edsel" of shade trees, but I think it is more like a Yugo in that is it relatively cheap, promises lots of benefits, but has a bunch of defects the manufacturer never warned you about :-).

Update 10/26: The Detroit Free Press has published an update to the article to address issues raised by readers, specifically that there are many cultivars of Norway maple that may or may not share its invasive qualities.

1 comment:

firefly said...

Holy cow. "Fall color"? They turn yellow if you're lucky, and a burnt-looking brownish if you aren't.

I live in a 1920s neighborhood that is planted streetside mostly with maples (not all of them Norways), but when we did have a Norway maple trimmed, the arborist called it a "weed."

This weed seeds aggressively, and every spring I have to go through the garden, the lawn, and the privet hedges to pull out seedlings (and I get big handfuls too). Once they get 2-3 feet tall the roots are so tough you can't take them out. I am sure that's how the tree behind the garage got started.

Just a few weeks ago our sidewalks were replaced and the city took out a lot of tree roots in the process. I'm secretly hoping the damage will mean we get new trees, and that we can talk to the city arborist about some other species as a replacement.