Branches of field maple (Acer campestre) trees reach across Goodge Street to touch each other.
They were planted by Camden Council when the pavements in Goodge Street were widened earlier this century.
The Council had not intended to plant any trees as part of the Street improvements. Their existence is due to our then Cllr Penny Abraham’s intervention with the Leader of the Council who instructed their planting in 2010.
The proposal for tree planting formed part of the Charlotte Street Association’s submitted vision for the street. It’s hard to imagine how drab and more polluted the street would be without those threes.
It should also be remembered that had the Mayor of London’s proposal for pedestrianisation of Oxford Street gone ahead the trees would have been cut down to facilitate two-way way buses in Goodge Street.
Native trees just like these would have been growing in the area since 8,000 years ago and until the early eighteenth century when the area was known as Walnut and Crabtree Fields and the land was cleared as London expanded north.
Field maple supports at least 26 species of insect and makes an important contribution to biodiversity and their leaf canopy helps to combat climate change and cool the streets in hot weather.
“The UK’s only native maple, it is found growing in woods, scrub and hedgerows, and on chalk lowland. It is widely planted in gardens and parks due to its compact habit, tolerance of pollution and rich autumn colours,” says the Woodland Trust.
“Field maple is attractive to aphids and their predators, including many species of ladybird, hoverfly and bird. Lots of species of moth, such as the mocha, feed on its leaves. The flowers provide nectar and pollen sources for bees and birds, and small mammals eat the fruits.”
This spring without all the air pollution they are flourishing like never before. Outside of lockdown NO2 levels on Goodge Street are 50 percent above the legal limit.
The trees also suffer from getting hit by vehicles and have been blighted by a parasite that has attached electrical cables to them. In December the lights on the cables illuminate the trees but negatively impacts on the biodiversity that field maple supports.
Editors note: This article was updated at 10pm 17 May 2020 to add further information about the planting of the trees.