In praise of bad trees...

December 12, 2010 Panayoti Kelaidis , Senior Curator & Director of Outreach

This past fall (as if overnight) a conflagration of spectacular red trees glowed for weeks all over Denver...friends and members of the Gardens would ask me what are those fabulous maples? They are very appropriately named 'Autumn Blaze', a hybrid of silver maple (Acer saccharinum) and red maple (Acer rubrum), combining the spectacular fall color of the latter with the adaptability and vigor of the first. With perhaps a little added hybrid vigor tossed in as well. Considering the plant was only introduced into cultivation in 1980, its ubiquity and abundance in cities across America is sobering. Tree experts are concerned that as these mature they are apt to develop the same breakage problems as the parents (possibly more due to rapid growth), and likewise share the sensitivity to alkaline soil that often turn both parents chlorotic in midsummer. Everyone wants a tree that grows super fast, forgetting that this often means the same tree can grow massive in short order, and is often prone to spectacular and expensive breakage. No one really knows how big 'Autumn Blaze' will grow in Colorado, nor really how brittle it will truly be in old age. Perhaps this is a plant best enjoyed in your neighbor's garden? What an amazing impact, however, the bright red has  all over our region, especially combined with the brilliant purple tones of 'Autumn Purple' ash (Fraxinus americana): they have done much to enrich the color palette of our predominately yellow fall color. The ash, however, also needs lots of water to do well and has a host of present and potential pest problems! Coloradoans like to think every tree is wonderful on our windy steppe. I caution friends to stick with tried and true trees in their own gardens. There is a whole list of Index expuragoria when it comes to some arborists: either they are excessively prone to disease and pests, or subject to breakage or too water demanding. I shall take a look at several of these naughty trees...but it is good to remember that if a tree may not be ideal in your garden, it doesn't mean that it would not be suitable in a park or other large site. I for one delight in the spectacle that 'Autumn Blaze' has brought to our city. But you will not see one in my garden!



Status of 'Autumn Blaze' in Colorado today???

We noticed comments seen above were written in 2010. What have observers learned over past eight years regarding Autumn Blaze? Has Autumn Blaze held up along Colorado Front Range? Does hybrid Autumn Blaze fit in this changing climate/ concerns expressed above: subject to disease, breakage, or water demanding?

Is it suitable for our home in Greeley, Colorado?

Autumn blaze

I would suggest alternatives to Autumn Blaze in home garden settings. Utah maple is a better smaller maple, but there are also some new selections of Sugar Maple ('Green Mountain,' 'Fall Festival' and 'Commemoration') that have proved durable in Denver that I would suggest instead. Their foliage is as good, but have better growth characteristics and likely longer life.

species of trees in my yard in edge of Westminster bordering 132

Have had a lot of different volunteers. 6-7 years ago I planted 2 fruitless pear. They r tall. Est 40 or more. One maple blaze about 25 or so and branches do break in snow. One aspen est 60 ft. I have more volunteers Im checking leaves. I definitely like the trumpet vine but do not want the mess of cottonwood. The leaves look like maple but im not sure. They dont look like cottonwood leave trees I grew up with on the Platte in Commerce City. I haaate to cut that tree down its over 5 ft now. Can u help.

Autumn Blaze Maple - Lakewood CO

I planted an Autumn Blaze Maple at my home in Lakewood Co. It was around 8' tall when I had it planted. For 5-7 years it grew really fast and grew to 20-25 feet tall. It did suffer from iron deficiency. The leaves turned bright yellow in the fall, but never the deep red even with iron supplements. It was prone to sun scalding and the bark on the south side of the trunk and on several branches were also damaged. In Fall of 2019 we had a severe temperature change in 30 hours. Temperature went from 80 degrees to well below freezing the next day. The next spring (2020) we had cold and snow after several weeks of mild weather. Between the sun scalding and temperature extremes, the tree didn't live. While it does grow fast and can look nice, I'm not convinced it is a good tree for the Denver area. Our weather seems to be too extreme for this tree. In my opinion.

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