May 2005
Street Trees
Two Armstrong Maples growing tall, not wide.


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Facts at a Glance
The cultivar of these trees is unclear, but I am reasonably certain they are Armstrong maple.

Acer x freemanii 'Armstrong'

Planting date March 2000
Planting height: 8'
Planting trunk: 1"

2006 Update
Driveway tree

6-year height: 27'
6-year trunk: 17"

Farside tree
6-year height: 28'
6-year trunk: 18"

Mature Height: 50 to 70'
Spread: 15'
Growth rate: Fast
Form: Narrow, oval
Flowers: Red
Fall color: Yellow, orange
Hardiness zone: 3 - 7
Culture: Sun, partial shade

Best feature:
Fits in small yards

Worst problems:
None yet known

Do over? Yes


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A Tree Grower's Diary
Street Trees: Two Armstrong Maples Out By the Street


Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver

"Driveway side" tree leaf

"Farside" tree leaf

Key identifying features.. Tall, narrow maple cultivar with deeply cut leaves, some red stems, gray bark.

Common name.. Armstrong maple

Scientific name.. Acer x freemanii 'Armstrong'

Mature height.. 50 to 70 feet

Mature spread.. 15 feet

Form.. Narrow, oval.

Fruit.. In theory, samaras would take flight in spring, but this tree is fruitless. However, female clones exist that do produce fruit.

Flowers.. Small, red flowers, topped with bright yellow, in early spring.

Armstrong maple flower

Foliage.. Deciduous; green in summer, yellow to orange in fall. Leaves are 5-lobed, deeply cut, opposite, simple, tending toward the characteristics of this tree's silver maple parent, but also exhibiting characteristics of its other parent: red maple; leaf stems are often red.

Growth rate.. Fast; more than 2 feet a year. See the Street Tree growth chart.

Hardiness zones.. 3 through 7

Culture.. Adapts to many soil types, is drought and pollution tolerant once established, prefers full sun with a little afternoon shade.

Best time to prune.. When dormant, or, later in summer after the leaves have reached full size.

Fun Fact.. According to Arthur Lee Jacobson, of "North American Landscape Trees," Newton G. Armstrong of Armstrong Tree Service in Windsor, Ohio, bought the original specimen for $5 from a farmer near Hartgrove, Ohio. In 1948, Mr. Armstrong introduced the tree to Ed Scanlon, of Scanlon Nursery, where the tree was propagated and offered in quantity starting in 1955.

Fall 2002

Julie's Comments.. When these trees were planted by the township, I was told they were October Glory red maples. I now know they are not, though I actually suspected this by the time the leaves emerged that first spring. They simply weren't shaped like the leaves on my October Glory. Red maples have red twigs and buds in winter, red flowers in spring, leaf stems that are often red, and most red maple trees turn brilliant deep orange or red in fall, though some do turn yellow. The two trees planted along the street at my property, turn yellow to pale orange in fall. This alone is indication that they are not October Glory red maples! But, an interesting tidbit about trees is that sometimes trees have a specific fall color for several years, and then gradually or suddenly switch to a different color.

In any given year, a tree's fall color is dependent on many factors: nighttime and midday temperature variation, abundance or lack of rain, and whether or not there are many sunny days or many cloudy ones. The best fall display occurs during years when the spring is warm and wet, the summer is normally rainy (not too much, but not too little), and fall days are sunny and warm while the nights are cool but not freezing. Check out the portraits of my October Glory red maple and Red Sunset red maple during the fall of 2002. Those stunning colors are a result of Mother Nature providing all the perfect conditions for a breath-taking fall display.

Fall 2004

Planting date.. March 2000. These two maples were planted by the township's Shade Tree Commission from stock that arrived on an 18-wheeler along with dozens of other burlap ball trees in the planting project for that spring. Both of mine were about eight feet tall at planting time, with 1-inch trunks. A tree from that planting project planted around the corner from my house has since died.

Update.. April 2006. For a long time, I had posted in my diary that I considered these two trees to be red maples. Since the people who planted them told me they were red maples, I believed them. The trees came with no tags or printed information. I have used deductive reasoning, and help from my tree friends, to determine an identification for these trees, and while I can't guarantee that these trees are truly the 'Armstrong' freeman maple cultivar, I fully believe that they are. However, the landscape map still has them drawn and listed as "red maples." I should probably change that. For decades, Armstrong maples were considered red maples, and sold as such in the nursery trade. But, according to Ohio State University Extension, 'Armstrong' maple is not a red maple, but a freeman maple. The book, "Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Culture, and Use," (Delmar, Jan. 1994) by Ferrell M. Bridwell, agrees.

DO OVER?.. Yes. However, the rest of the trees that have been planted along my street by the township are far-spreading Sycamores. Many of them were planted in 1920 and while the trees form a glorious arcing canopy over the road, they are now beginning their decline. The narrow red maples in front of my house just don't seem to fit in. On the other hand, it's nice to have a variety and they will grow tall very fast. Personally, I would not have put a tall maple tree directly underneath a powerline! If I had it to do over, I'd request that the Shade Tree Commission plant smaller trees that wouldn't interfere with the power lines. Even so, I am not about to argue my way out of free summer shade on the burning black top of my driveway. So, Shade Tree Commission, if you're out there in cyber space reading this, thank you for my maple trees! I promise to take good care of them.


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