Country Life

Bring me sunshine fire

WHEN the glaciers melted after the last Ice Age and before the British Isles disconnected from mainland Europe, about 35 native tree species began to colonise the land. Among them were the oak, beech and ash and several other sylvan heavyweights, but also the field maple (Acer campestre), a smaller, yet no less important species, which grows in chalky soils all over the South of England. Under-appreciated and often forgotten, the shade-tolerant field maple is mostly a tree of the scrub and underwood, where it is literally and metaphorically overshadowed until autumn, when its sparkling leaves gleam like treasure.

A member of the family and the UK’s only native maple, the field maple—despite its

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