Differentiate maple species by their leaves - this is how it works

Differentiate maple species by their leaves - this is how it works

Sycamore, Norway and field maple - unmistakable leaf shapes

The three most common maple species in our forests are well known to us thanks to their spectacular autumn colors. Sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), Norway maple (Acer platanoides) and field maple (Acer campestre) can be clearly distinguished from one another on the basis of characteristic leaf shapes:

  • Sycamore maple: 5-lobed, serrated leaf margin, dark green on top, gray-green underneath, 20 cm long, 15 cm wide
  • Norway maple: 5- to 7-lobed, protruding tips, up to 18 cm long, extra long petiole, smooth leaf edge (never sawn)
  • Field maple: double-lobed, green, 3 to 5-lobed, smooth leaf margin, velvety hairy underneath

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European maple species have passed their beautiful leaves on to the resulting varieties. The popular globe maple Globosum cannot deny the Norway maple as its progenitor. The yellow speckles on the leaves of the Leopoldii variety do not yet reveal its parentage. The 5-lobed hand shape of the leaves reveals beyond any doubt that the sycamore maple was the inspiration here.

Slotted leaves reveal Asian maple species

Asian maple species are very popular because they thrive less expansively than their European counterparts. The many varieties are characterized by deeply slit leaves, which are composed of 5 to 11 pointed lobes. The foliage is serrated at the edge, which rules out any confusion with European maple trees.

A closer look requires the identification of the Japanese maple, the compact varieties of which stand out in the bucket on the balcony and terrace. The leaves are 5-lobed and indented, which complicates the distinction from native maple species. The decisive distinguishing feature is the red petiole, which clears all doubts out of the way.


During the leaf-free period, some maple species reveal their name based on their bark. Japanese maple Sangokaku boasts coral-red shoots in winter. Sycamore maple can be distinguished by its gray-brown, rough and scaly bark. The bark of Norway maple shows distinctive longitudinal cracks. Light vertical stripes in brown bark are typical of the Japanese maple.