Norway Maple makes “Most Hated Plants” List

Norway Maple threatens my roof

Norway Maple threatens my roof

You may have noticed by now that invasive plants make me a little angry as well as the people who continue to plant invasives, and especially the people who continue to sell invasive plants. Or rather, they really “Get my Irish Up.”

So I’m going to start a new series in which I highlight a specific invasive plant, where I’ll discuss what makes that plant such a problem and how we can eradicate them from our landscapes.

Norway Maple top snapped off, resprouting from trunk

Norway Maple top snapped off, resprouting from trunk

The plant that is inspiring my ire this week is the Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) because my neighbor has a whole yard full of them and he has no interest in maintaining them or eliminating the danger that they present to my roof.

This tree was brought to America by the famous botanist of Philadelphia, John Bartram. During the 1930s and 1940s when the streets of many cities lost their shade trees to Dutch Elm disease, Norway Maple was widely used as a replacement because of its fast growth and deep shade.

Brush pile of Norway Maple Branches

Brush pile of Norway Maple fallen branches

Norway Maples continue to be sold throughout the country as ornamental shade trees. I continue to hope that someday soon Home Depot (and Lowes and Walmart) will awaken to the harm they are causing the environment by continuing to sell invasive plants. Maybe one day responsibility will win out over profits.

Here’s why I hate Norway Maples:

  • This is one dirty tree, dropping trash at all seasons, including flower buds, two crops of seeds, twigs, branches, and copious amounts of leaves.
  • It sheds large branches from the top, then resprouts along the trunk. Every time the wind blows large branches fall from the top of the tree, making me very nervous about my roof.
  • It makes a LOT of seedlings. I spend way too much time every spring and summer in an attempt to hand pull all of them.
  • Nothing grows underneath them. My flower beds along this neighbors fenceline are empty. Every year I try to fill in these beds, and every year I watch in sadness as everything dies.
  • It is the last tree to lose its leaves in the fall, often not until after Thanksgiving, which means that having my gutters cleaned is a game of Russian roulette. Will the leaves fall before it snows? It’s been a hit and miss proposition.
  • I fear for my two dogs safety when they are in the yard. One of those falling branches would hurt them badly.
Norway Maple Blowdown

Norway Maple blow-down

Norway Maples have severe environmental impacts:

  • They grow faster than native maples and other forest trees and its dense, shallow root system makes it difficult for native seedlings to get established.
  • They create a dense shade, under which other species cannot survive, hence my naked garden beds.
  • The seedlings are very shade-tolerant, able to spread and grow in interior forests. These seedlings are usually the only plant that can survive in the shade of mature Norway Maples.
  • Forests with Norway Maples show much lower species diversity than forests that have not yet been invaded.
  • Its shallow roots make it prone to blowdowns.
  • It is tolerant of poor soils and air pollution, making it the dominant tree in many urban settings.

Eradication of these trees requires a huge amount of labor. Seedlings can be hand pulled, and mature trees cut down, but it often resprouts again from the stump. This may be accomplished in my small city yard, but the cost is prohibitive in woodland and forest settings.

Happy Day! Norway Maple removal

Happy Day! Norway Maple Removal

Please do not ever intentionally plant this tree!

The good news is that my neighbor has basically abandoned this house and a very happy day for us was when we had several of these invasive Norway Maples most dangerous to our house cut down.

A wonderful reference to the impacts and eradication of other most hated plants is Invasive Plants: Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species.

So what is your most hated plant? How have you tried to keep it out of your landscape? Is it working? Rant away about the plants you hate the most in the comments below.

Update: check out the scary demise of these Norway Maples by a dangerous contractor

© 2009 – 2013, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Join the Wren Song Community

Wren Winter Singing crop

Free Exclusive Content and Member's Forum

Sign up for a free membership in the Wren Song Community and you'll have access to a lot more valuable information published exclusively for our members.

Meet other passionate wildlife gardeners from around the country. Share your successes. Learn from your failures. Discover the best resources to help you create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your gardens with native plants so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, native pollinators, and other wildlife to your garden.

Learn more about the Wren Song Community


  1. Linda Dean says

    Norway Maple is my #1 hated plant these days. Seedlings and mature trees all along the pond crowd out the native bald cypress and others. Seems like it will live anywhere, even in the wet pond border. However by July my most hated plant will be the invasive water lillies!

    • Cindy says

      We recently bought a home just south of Denver, CO. On the property are 4 dead Aspen trees around 10 years old. It was suggested that we plant a Norway Maple. I googled it and your piece about 10 most hated plants popped up. I don’t want to plant an invasive tree but I do want one that will survive and thrive. Any suggestions? My yard get bright sunshine.

      • says

        Hi Cindy,
        I live in the north east, and one of my go-to trees is Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). From the USDA plant data base, it appears that this hackberry is native to Colorado. Check out the tree’s characteristics under plant guide ( It is a very hardy tree (Zones 2-9) that establishes in full sun to deep shade and can tolerate a wide range of soil types and moisture regimes. It will grow faster and bigger in full sun. I love the warty/bumpy bark on hackberries. Like oaks, it leafs out later than a lot of other trees. Like aspen, the leaves turn yellow in the fall. As a bonus – Hackberry trees are the only host plants of the Hackberry Emperor butterfly.

        This site lists another hackberry ( On the USDA site, Netleaf hackberry is listed as Celtis laevigata Willd. var. reticulata.

        The oaks in Colorado tend to be on the scrubby side(e.g., gray oak or Quercus grisea). But they can look quite attractive:

        This site lists mostly conifers:

        And there are always the native plant societies to contact for information. In your area – Colorado Native Plant Society with several chapters (

  2. R. Brune says

    My most hated plant is the Japanese Knotweed. I’ve been trying to get rid of a patch for 20 years now. The more you cut them down the better they grow. You can’t even pull them up and throw them somewhere else or they’ll root themselves. They’re ugly and leave big, brown hollow sticks in winter. In summer the flowers attract tons of little wasp-like insects. Never tried any kind of herbicide because I just don’t want to do that and the other stuff that’s growing among them would die too. The stuff that the Knotweed hasn’t choked out, that is. Can’t burn them because they’re too close to the house. You just can’t get rid of this stuff.

  3. says

    OK, hated invasives, mmm… Right now, here in Kansas, I’m having more problem with native invasives than imported ones. The good news is that native invasives do support wildlife. The bad news is that prairie is an endangered landscape and without proper management it gets taken over by colonizing trees.

    Putting ecosystems out of balance causes problems to come from whatever plants are ready and waiting to take over. Since most of Kansas is agricultural the invasives tend to be plants which were brought in for cultivation at one time or another rather than things people put in their gardens.

    On my list of nuisance things which invade prairie are: honey locust (have you seen the spines on those things); eastern red cedar; osage orange; and sumac. Imported invasives causing prairie problems include Johnson grass and nodding thistle.

    I can’t wait to read what your “hated invasive” for next week is :-)
    .-= Alison Kerr´s last post ..The World is Like a Calm Pond =-.

  4. says

    I’m not a fan of bougainvillea – its not that they are invasive but out here, people just let them grown and grow. My neighbor’s on both sides have theirs growing for feet onto our property.

  5. says

    Purple loosestrife. It astounds me that it is still sold as an ornamental and referenced in gardening books as a colorful addition to the garden. It is restricted in over 30 states.

  6. Mary says

    I also don’t care much for the Japanese ivy. I guess what bothers me about them is that they are so wimpy looking, and not even that pretty. I prefer ecologically local trees.

  7. says

    Wow, these hated plants certainly get people riled up!
    @Linda, I’m with you on Norway Maple, and your pond is probably full of spatterdock, too, which is way worse than most water lillies.

    @R. Brune, Japanese Knotweed is a beast to try to control! It can take up to 10 years of constantly cutting the stems to kill the rhizome.

    @Alison, it’s such a shame that so little of the native prairie remains. It used to stay as prairie because of infrequent fires, but now we control all the fires so trees, native or not, are able to start to take over. The prairie is one of the most endangered habitats in this country.

    @Melissa, bougainvillea is native to South America, but many varieties are sold throughout the country now. The sunnier it is, the bigger it can get. Sadly, most folks pay no attention to the size of plants when they are fully grown and don’t plan ahead for this when planting. It seems your neighbors are included in that group.

    @Robin, I’m with your husband! The invasive English Ivy makes me get ballistic, too. It’s all over my neighborhood and they all think it’s “pretty.”

    @jublke, Purple Loosestrife is very destructive around any of our waterways. I’m with you, the sale of this plant should absolutely be banned!

  8. says

    I hear ya on the Norway Maple! We had it on our last property and its shallow roots sucked all the moisture out of the ground and nothing would grow anywhere around them. Not to mention their progeny sprouted in every nearby natural area, crowding out the native plants and trees that are relied upon by wildlife up and down the food chain.

    Here we have a problem with Japanese Knotweed, Asiatic Bittersweet, Multiflora Rose and Japanese Barberry. All of these are invading our moist woods and it is so frustrating to a gardener trying to increase biodiversity in her own backyard! I have also seen Garlic Mustard down the road which is troublesome because they are shade lovers and we have so much moist shady woodlands in this area.

    I try to educate my clients and students about the ecological threats from invasive plants but it’s tough to convince the person on the street that this is anything other than nature in evolution. As “conservation gardeners”, we can all try to stem the tide by identifying and removing invasive plants from our own landscapes (no matter the size) and trying to encourage native biodiversity back into the residential landscape.

    Thanks for helping raise awareness of the negative impacts of non-native invasive plants.

  9. says

    I loved how Douglas Tallamy ties the problem with non-native species back to the very low number of insects and birds they support. I think it’s a more palatable and positive message to say, “Look, if you plant a native maple you can support 68 species of inchworms, the rosy maple moth, and the birds which feed on them.”

    Why would you choose Norway Maple instead of the beautiful fall color and birds which you can get with a native maple, unless you simply don’t know better, don’t care, or don’t have access to the native species?

    Not that I am suggesting you axe your “hated invasives” list. What fun it is to hear people’s complaints! And there is more to non-native plant problems than the fact that they don’t support insects. They are just so costly to control and such a nuisance.

  10. says

    There are so many annoying invasives that it is hard to pick just one. Multiflora rose, garlic mustard, purple mustard, Japanese barberry, and kudzu are annoying in their own ways. There are quite a lot of Norway maples in my town, probably for the same reasons that you outlined. Hardly anything is able to grow underneath, and now many of them are at an age where maintenance is a serious problem.
    .-= John´s last post ..Late Season Dragonflies =-.

  11. says

    @Ellen, I am so glad that you are educating your clients about the dangers of invasive plants! Watch out for that Garlic Mustard as it will push out all the spring ephemerals in the woods and keep everything else from growing too.

    @Alison, I’m so glad you mentioned Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home. As you know, that book is a must-read for every gardener and home owner IMHO. There are so many native alternatives to invasive plants. We just need to learn how beneficial they can be.

    @Bethe Kudos to you for building schoolyard habitats and working on restoration projects! That is very important work and much needed.

    @John First, that’s a great article about Dragonflies! And yes, every invasive plant causes varying amounts of ecological damage. Norway Maples definitely need to be maintained because huge chunks of them fall off at the slightest wind.

  12. Owen says

    I agree with your sentiments Carole re: Norway Maple.

    However, to put blame where it is due, I am virtually certain that your first picture regarding the roof threat, though low res, shows a (native) Silver Maple. I have one threatening my roof too! It seems consistent with your concerns about falling branches since Silver Maples tend to drop dangerous branches due to size, weak wood and shade intolerance (i.e. self-pruning) whereas Norways don’t generally do that due to smaller size, stronger wood and high shade tolerance.

    But yeah, I think people should be more responsible and plant native or at least non-invasive species. The streets full of purple/red Norways epitomize the worst of suburban ignorance.

  13. Debb says

    Another fascinating fact about the Norwegian maple is the sap that leaks all over the cars in late summer. This sap damages the finish on the car and is toxic to small animals affecting the birth rate of birds, squirrels and other tree dwellers. It is a contributing factor to the fact that nothing grows under them! Aside from sucking up all the water, creating dense shade, and its prolific seeding and the danger from breaking branches, the Norwegian maple is a quadruple threat and prone to “black spot”, which makes it just ugly.

    I have to deal with several invasive species on my property including horseradish, dandelions, and ragweed. The maple is definitely the worst of the bunch.

  14. roxiane says

    I planted a Norway Maple that my mother gave me as a sapling in my very small backyard because I was in need of shade. My Western exposure window was killing me. I did not know what it was, however I had a horticulturalist visit my home to advise me on the plants on my property when it was fairly young. She informed me that it was a Norway Maple & commended me on planting all drought resistant, native plants and non-invasive species. I specifically asked her if this tree would be a problem in the future to my or my neighbours houses, about the roots etc & she advised me that it was a great shade tree that’s roots would not pose any problem. My yard backs on to a park so I am not sure if that is why she said the roots would not be a problem to my foundation etc. I am worried that this tree may grow too huge for the property but would like to know if it’s roots won’t be a problem because of the park. Pls advise. It sounds like the town’s horticulturalist gave me a lot of bad advice.

  15. Dwig says

    Get a life! Norway Maples are wonderful trees and one big one provides all the wonderful shade I need for my backyard and patio. This tree is about 30 years old. Nothing grows under it so I don’t have to mow or weed! Keep it trimmed and keep after it and you will have a great tree.

    • Samantha says

      I agree. I love my Norway maples. When we bought our house, there were about 20 of them growing in the hard clay soil in our yard on this hill, and we are grateful for their shade. Because my lawn is sloping, it’s hard to mow, and since nothing will grow under the maples, we mulched and let it be. Perfect. Very little work to maintaint he yard, and pachysandra and ivy keep things green in the perimiter. Keep the trees trimmed, and enjoy the golden yellow that lights up rainy autumn days.

  16. Andrew says

    You sound lke a racist! So mch hate for a plant that is one of God’s creations! We love our beautiful Norwegian Maple! Hater!

  17. Manuel A. Obalde Jr says

    Here in Westchester County New York, there are several invase species that have taken over and destroyed our native forests. The most damaging invasives include porcelain berry vine, bittersweet vine, english ivy vine, and the multifora rose. They have completely taken over and wiped out trees and patches of woods everywhere. Although there are groups that volunteer to go out and cut back the vines, the battle is being lost and our forests are vanishing.

  18. Ashley says

    I had no idea the Norway Maple was so dangerous! A relative of my husband has the most magnificent one I’ve ever seen. Until now, I was ready to go and plant my own. What kind of shade tree would you suggest? Is there anything fast growing like the Norway Maple?

  19. Barb says

    I am in agreement with the Norway Maple being one of the most despised invasive species of trees. I had 2 of them cut down 2 years ago because it killed off my lawn and I kept trying to reseed the lawn and fertilize it and it would die off, if it grew at all. As it stands now, I am going to have to re-sod my lawn because all that grows now is weeds.
    I do have a second tree that I despise and is just as invasive as The Norway Maple. The Alianthus tree also referred to as the tree of heaven because it can grow extremely tall ( 80 ft), has root suckers that sprout when ever one tries to cut the tree or disturb the ground, female trees have seedlings that will sprout anywhere they drop, it has a skunk like smell, it attracts Asian wasps because of the sap that is produced on the back of the leaves, it also thrives on air pollution ( that is why one can see them in abundance along every U.S. highway). They also will kill off other native species because of the rapid way that these trees reproduce. It will take over ones yard. These trees have been known to bust through concrete including home foundations.

  20. Kelly Walls says

    Hi Carole,

    I am completely new to this. Can you recommend a good tree for me to plant. I want to plant probably 2 trees at the back of my yard. The intent would be for them to grow big and thick to absorb the noise that comes from the road directly behind my house. I like pretty changing colors in the fall and little to no mess. The trouble for me is that my soil is a very thick clay soil. I live in Saskatchewan Canada. Our winters are long and quite cold average -20 to -30 celcius. Thanks Carole :-)

    • says

      Thanks, Carole. Hi Kelly!
      SK is a big province. Natural Resources Canada has a handy little guide – Plant lists by area of interest, species and range maps ( Choose the ecological range (year 2011-2040) – the ecological takes into account both temperature and rainfall projections. It generates a full range and a core list. The model assumes the effects of climate change…and it isn’t good in the long range.

      Running back to Saskatoon (or Regina? or ?) –
      My go-to deciduous tree for clay soil is bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa ( It is endemic to your area, if you are in the southern part of the province. If you want year-round noise reduction and a good wind break – plantings of White spruce (Picea glauca). However, there is no dramatic change in foliage colour through the seasons.

      Make sure which ever species you go with is locally sourced. A bur oak from a more southern location will not tolerate your frosty winters compared with a tree with local genes. For best wildlife-serving potential, stick with the wild stock and not cultivars, since we don’t know what, if any positive traits are lost in breeding.

      Oaks are slower in growth, so you might want to source a larger specimen. Smaller ones may be susceptible to deer and rabbit browsing. The only drawback with a larger specimen, besides expense, is that they may take a little longer to recover from the shock of transplanting. As with any tree, especially large ones, you should not plant it closer than 3 to 4 metres from your house. Give it lots of room, from your house or other trees, as it will be a big tree. You should only plant one, unless you have a really large property.

      You might also want to try layering your vegetation at the back with fast-growing shrubs/small trees as an understorey. Colonizers like choke cherry (Prunus virginiana var. demissa) are tough and can grow quite thickly and regenerate. With clay soil, they may be kept in check. You won’t have to worry about berries being dropped, as wildlife will gobble them up, readily.

      Also, you could try amending the soil with compost and sand to add more nutrients and coarse texture to your existing soil. Then, you would be able to choose from a wider list of species. Shade tolerant species, such as Beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta var. cornuta) or American hazel (C. americana) would prefer less finely textured soil. I have clay soil with a shallow duff layer in Toronto and my American hazel does fine. As a bonus, American hazel leaves turn gorgeous yellow with orangey to red hues in the fall.


  21. Markie says

    Thank you for blog post! Since developing my passion for native vegetation I have been horrified by the barriers there are to not only the removal and abolition of invasive species, but also the difficulty in making this problem known to the public- even in my own household! It’s very frustrating, but nice to know i’m not alone. Thank you!

  22. Robert Cooke says

    One more problem of Norway Maples. The branches don’t only fall in heavy wind, they also come crashing down in ice storms, destroying homes and cars.

    • O.S.T. says

      If you are by any chance posting from Southern Ontario, I hope your house and/or car weren’t impacted. The combination of your posting date, and your mention of ice storms makes me suspect you may have been caught in the recent ice storm power outages (etc..) we experienced lately.

      If you are, I don’t know if you’re aware of the following:

      It’s crazy, but most Ontario municipalities tree protection by-laws – most especially Toronto’s – actually PROTECT Norway Maple (and other invasive tree species) *over and above* native trees, due (at least that’s what they say publicly) to its superior carbon sequestration ability. Go figure. It has much bigger leaf mass, much longer in the season than our natives. Perhaps – just perhaps – it’s because it’s an invasive species??? The valuation may not be obvious – it’s through the assessed fines – which are much larger for trees with greater leaf mass, like Norway Maple (and also mid level trees like European Buckthorn). Meaning that (and this is from the Forestry methodology most municipalities use – I don’t remember the name at the moment) you can get fined more for harming a Norway Maple than a 100 year old Oak.

      If you look at all the “tree protection” by-laws in the province of Ontario (you can find most of them by first looking up the Forester’s Association), what you’ll soon discover is that almost all of the legislation has a similar look/feel. Barely ever is there a description of what constitutes a healthy environment or ecosystem, nor of the requirements around appropriate placement of trees when planting.

      Hence the public encouragement to plant trees anywhere and everywhere, as much as you can, and with no guidance or restrictions. Except if you want to maintain them, that is, in which case you have to apply for permits and promise your first-born child in compensation. Hence, resulting in the situation we just went through during the power outages where thousands were without power over Christmas.

      But what you WILL find in every single one of those by-laws are definitions of the terms “Arborist”, “Forester”, etc… And the constant need for permits, permits, permits to remove or maintain them – all of which first require reports purchased from the aforementioned foresters, and the constant refrain of fines, fines, fines for touching a tree without a permit from the City via those foresters. Foresters who, btw, were major contributors to the drafting of said tree protection by-law legislation in the first place (most City committee meetings are posted on-line and contain a wealth of information in that regard).

      So we pretty much have legislation that is guaranteed to create the very situation we just went through – with thousands without power for days, businesses closed, cars and homes damaged, etc… If you look at the reports of where allll that emergency $$ went to – a very great deal of it went to emergency forestry workers. All of them making a great deal of overtime.

      I’ve read through most of the Tree “protection” by-laws in Ontario municipalities. Most of them appear to actually be protecting Forester/Tree Professional’s jobs. Not so much trees. And certainly not the environment or the citizenry.

  23. says

    Sorry to say, but I think it’s articles like this that alienate people from joining us in non native invasive species control. Please stop complaining that they are dirty and trashy, they shed branches and threaten your roof, their leaves fall too late, and they shade out your flower beds. With all due respect, nobody cares if that’s what you think. Other people might see virtues in the same plant. Until you get the end, it sounds like you want people to hate Norway maple just because you hate it. Articles like this make me think Theodoropoulos has a point in what they write about the psychology of invasive species hatred. Please just focus on the ecological harm. Try to educate, not spread hatred.

    • says

      Funny, I saw this exact same comment on my Facebook page :)

      This is but one post out of 5 years of my work online, and it is meant very tongue-in-cheek when I say “Most Hated Plants”

      I don’t want anyone to hate Norway Maple just because I’m not a fan, I DO want garden centers and nurseries to stop selling plants that are doing damage to our fragile natural ecosystems, and instead learn that there are much better native alternatives to these invasive plants that also provide many benefits for wildlife, preserve ecosystem function, and contribute to the local food web (and don’t drop their mess on my house at every season)
      Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..Keynote Address CT Master Gardener Symposium

  24. Sky Fairfax says

    My most hated plant is goutweed; I had some sneak in with blackcurrant bushes from a friend. By the time I realized what it was, it had taken over. Yes, I have fought a successful battle. I used layers of carpeting to contain it (it was sneaking into the lawn) and to smother it, and I used Round-up several times a year. It took me 3 years but it is all gone. Now I just have to reseed part of the lawn. Don’t give up, fellow goutweed-sufferers!

  25. JoeBob says

    Thanks guys for this info! Had a science project about leaves species like acer quercus and stuff like that and I picked a Norway maple outside and no idea that they’re where invasive like the sycamore maple. So thanks for the 100% on my project,


  1. […] Norway Maple They grow faster than native maples and other forest trees and its dense, shallow root system makes it difficult for native seedlings to get established. They create a dense shade, under which other species cannot survive, hence my naked garden beds. […]

  2. […] lived there no effort was made to maintain the garden area except for an occasional mowing. The invasive Norway Maples continued to drop large limbs and branches every time we had a storm, which the guy who mowed had […]

  3. […] and if you have one, you know that gardeners love to hate this tree. Helen and Sarah Battersby and others have written about the difficulty of gardening with Norway Maples and what to grow under them […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge