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Maple, Marmo

Acer x freemanii 'Marmo'

Marmo MapleEarly autumn ushers in a welcome peacefulness to a rich and still-blooming landscape. Trees and shrubs are at their peak of growth for the year, and many will add still another dimension when they change color. This time of year offers a chance to reflect on what we value in personal landscapes. Certainly at the top of the list in Chicagoland are the big shade trees. The elm, oak, and horsechestnut trees that define neighborhoods are priceless. But what happens if a century-old tree that has succumbed to storm damage, disease, or insect attack needs to be replaced? What are the best choices for gardeners today who are planting for tomorrow’s generation?

The Chicagoland Grows® program has some suggestions, and one will be in full glory this fall as its green and red or burgundy and gold fall color lights up the landscape. Marmo maple, Acer x freemanii 'Marmo', is a cultivated variety from the hybrid cross of red maple, Acer rubrum, with silver maple, Acer saccharinum. 'Marmo' was selected from The Morton Arboretum's collection and named for the lake on the grounds. Chicagoland Grows included the tree in its program in 1988, and interest in 'Marmo' has risen ever since.

A shade tree par excellence, 'Marmo' adapts to a wide range of conditions. According to the Chicagoland Grows Program, 'Marmo' has gracefulness combined with strong branching. The uniform, upright oval shape of the tree and its unique fall color combinations that vary with weather and site conditions are strong attributes.

'Marmo' is quick to establish itself, growing over 2 feet a year when young. Its foliage is ornamental not only in autumn, but is also tinted red in early spring, developing to a rich green with silver undersides in summer. Each leaf unfolds from a red petiole. And unlike the silver maple, 'Marmo' is seedless. It is a strong grower, exhibiting none of the weak or broken branch problems of the silver maple, and as a mature tree has an excellent record of resistance to diseases and insects.

Look for the two beautiful specimens at the Chicago Botanic Garden. One is out in the open just west of Spider Island; the other rises majestically from the interior of the Pullman Shade Plant Evaluation Garden. If you want to plant a big, beautiful shade tree for the millennium, consider the four-season beauty of the Marmo maple.