Common Name: Amur Maple
Scientific name: Acer ginnala, Acer tataricum ssp. ginnala
Identification: Amur maple is a large deciduous shrub to small tree, generally 15-18’ tall at maturity. It is common for this species to grow multiple stems and for the crowns to be as wide as the plants are tall. The leaves are opposite each other, and are generally 1 ½ to 3” in length. Leaves have three lobes, and the middle lobe is much longer than the side lobes. Leaf edges are toothed, and leaves are dark green in summer, sometimes changing to yellow or red in fall (fall foliage color varies by cultivar and planting situation). Flowers emerging in mid spring are yellowish white, small, and born in small, branched clusters. Flowers are fragrant, unlike other maples. Fruits appear over the summer and mature in early-to-mid fall. They are the papery, winged two-chambered samaras characteristic of maples. Samaras are often pink or reddish in the summer, ripening to brown. The small size of the samaras (each side is ¾ – 1” long) along with the coloration can help distinguish from other maples.
Look-alikes: Amur maple can be distinguished from other maples by its leaf shape, particularly the long middle lobe. It is most similar to Tatarian maple (Acer tataricum), another small exotic maple with unlobed leaves that frequently has a single main stem. Amur maple is much smaller at maturity than any native maple species, with smaller samaras. The leaf shape is somewhat similar to the native ninebark (Physocarpus spp.), but ninebark has alternate leaves, while those of Amur maple are opposite.
Amur maple has been reported in occasional populations in northern Minnesota and near Ottawa, Canada. Isolated occurrences have reported throughout the rest of the Great Lakes Basin. Nationally, it is most commonly reported in Minnesota and New England. Invasive populations occur most frequently near areas where it has been planted as an ornamental.
Additional invasive species distribution data for specific Great Lakes jurisdictions are available via:
Amur maple seed is distributed by wind. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture indicates that most seed falls within 100 meters of its parent tree, but that a small proportion of seed may travel greater distances. Each mature tree may produce around 5,000 seeds per year.
Amur maple prefers sunny conditions, and is prone to invade open habitats like open woodlands, forest edges, prairies, and transport and utility rights of way. However, seedlings can germinate and grow to maturity in shade, and Amur maple is particularly well-adapted to exploit any canopy gaps that open up (Schuster and Reich 2018). It is most prevalent at disturbed sites.
Over time, Amur maple can form dense, single-species stands. It can suppress the growth of native shrubs, herbaceous plants and grasses by establishing dense shade (Schuster and Reich 2018).
Amur maple was introduced to North America as an ornamental plant in the 1860s. It remains in trade for use in suburban yards and parking lot islands due to its compact size, cold hardiness, colorful fall foliage, and ability to grow in a variety of soil types. If pruned, it can also be maintained as a shrub screen, hedge or containerized tree (Dirr 1998).
No currently available cultivars are known to be significantly less seedy than the parent species. Research is ongoing at Oregon State University’s Horticulture Program to develop a triploid (sterile) cultivar (Perkowski 2017).
Please see our Landscape Alternatives pages for more information about how the WIGL Collaborative selected alternatives.
|Alternatives for Amur Maple
Common name (Latin name)
|Small tree for yard or patio||Colorful fall foliage||Very cold hardy (Zone 3)|
|Canada serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)||✔||✔||✔|
|Apple serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora), ‘Autumn Brilliance,’ ‘Princess Diana,’ ‘Cumulus’||✔||✔a|
|River birch (Betula nigra)
‘Little King’ FOX VALLEY™
|American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)||✔||✔||✔|
|Redbud (Cercis canadensis)||✔||✔|
|Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)||✔||✔|
|Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia)||✔|
|American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus)||✔||✔|
|Girard’s paperbark maple (Acer griseum x nikoense)||✔||✔|
|Three-flower maple (Acer triflorum)||✔||✔|
a Listed cultivars have the indicated trait, but the straight species (or hybrid) may not.
Green = native to part of the Great Lakes Basin
Yellow = native to the United States but not to the Basin
Blue = not native but not invasive
The following is a brief overview of management techniques shown to be effective on Amur maple, though there is relatively little information available about management of this species. For more detailed information on how to use these techniques, please visit our Management and Control page. For local assistance managing woody invasive species, please get in touch with a cooperative invasive species management group or a university extension program.
Timing and spread concerns: Amur maple is still relatively uncommon around the Great Lakes region, so a good defense is the best offence. Natural areas close to places where this species has been planted should be monitored closely for seedlings. Whenever possible, plants should be controlled as seedlings and while populations are small. If control is undertaken on mature plants when seeds are present, it is best not to remove any plant material from the site to avoid spreading seed.
Physical control: Small plants are easily hand-pulled from moist soil; larger saplings can be dug or pulled using equipment, such as a weed wrench. Roots must be removed to prevent resprouting. Mowing can suppress seedling growth near adult plants on managed landscapes, but must be repeated frequently. Prescribed fire can prevent Amur maple establishment in fire adapted communities such as prairies and savannahs, but must be repeated annually if possible.
Chemical control and combined approaches: Cut stump and basal bark herbicide treatment can be applied most of the year, outside of early spring when sap is flowing upward. Herbicide should be selected carefully based on site conditions, and label directions read and followed carefully.
With any treatment it will be necessary to monitor for and treat regrowth and new seedlings in subsequent years.
Resources on management of Amur maple:
- Dirr, MA. 1998. Acer ginnala In: Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Fifth Edition. Champlain, IL: Stipes Publishing, 18-19.
- Perkowski, M. 2017. Breeder aims to restore markets. Capital Press (Online).
- Schuster, MJ and PB Reich. 2018. Amur maple (Acer ginnala): an emerging invasive plant in North America. Biological Invasions 20(10).