AFRĀ, Persian term for the maple tree (genus Acer), also embracing a few shrubs of the family Aceraceae. There are 150 species indigenous to the north temperate regions of the Old and New Worlds; eleven of them are represented in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Turkey, and the Caucasus region. The following species are known to be indigenous to present-day Iran: 1. Karab/karaf (Acer campestre L.), hedge or common maple, found in the forests and mountains of Gorgān, Māzandarān, and Azerbaijan at an elevation of 800-2,200 m. It is economically useful as a honey plant and the wood is used to fashion small articles. 2. Afrā maḵmalī (Acer velutinum Boiss.), velvet maple, found in Māzandarān and Gīlān at 400-1,500 m elevation. A variety of this maple, called gandlāš, palat, and pals (A. velutinum var. glabrescens [Boiss. & Buhse] E. Murray), is found in Māzandarān, Gīlān, and Gorgān (elev. 200-2,200 m), Azerbaijan, and Khorasan. 3. Āǰ/ʿĀǰ, also bozbarg, šīrdār, and bezvālak (Acer cappadocicum Gled.), coliseum maple, growing in the mountain forests of Gīlān and Māzandarān (elev. 400-2,300 m), Azerbaijan, and Khorasan, as well as in Turkey, the Caucasus, and Pakistan. 4. Tal afrā or tal, also aqūčgīʾīn and karkū (Acer monspessulanum L.), Montpelier maple. Two subspecies found in Iran are (a) Tal-e ḵākestarī or afrā ḵākestarī (subsp. cinerascens [Boiss.] Yaltirik) in west and central Iran (Arāk, Hamadān, Kermānšāh, Kurdistan [elev. 1,500-1,700 m], Isfahan [1,800 m], the Baḵtīārī country) and in the south (Fārs, Banāder [900-2,000 m], and Lorestān [1,500-2,100 m]) and (b) Afrā Ṭālešī (subsp. ibericum [M. B.] Yaltirik), in Gīlān and Māzandarān (350-1,800 m) and Azerbaijan. 5. Afrā Īrānī (Acer persicum Pojark), Persian maple, occurring in Fārs (1,400-1,900 m) and Kermān (2,100-3,200 m). Two varieties of the species have now become native to Iran: (a) Afrā Torkamanī (turcomanicum [Pojark] Parsa), in Gorgān, Khorasan, and Šāhrūd-Basṭām (as well as in Turkmenistan), and (b) Afrā Āšūrī (assyriacum [Pojark] Parsa), in Kermānšāh, Kurdistan, and Lorestān (as well as in Iraq, Turkey, and Turkmenistan). 6. Afrā karkū or sefīd karkū (Acer hyrcanum Fisch. & C. A. Mey), found in the mountain forests of Gīlān, Māzandarān, and Gorgān (1,200-2,400 m), as well as in Turkey and the Caucasus. 7. Afrā čenārī (Acer platanoides L.), Norway maple, found in the Gorgān and Māzandarān forests up to the subalpine belt, at 1,800-2,300m.

The following species of Acer have not yet been noted in Iran itself: 8. Afrā Torkestānī (Acer turkestanicum Pax), occurring in Afghanistan and Turkestan (2,100-2,300 m). 9. Afrā ābī (Acer caesium Wall. ex Brandis), found in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 10. Afrā tatarī (Acer semenovii Regel & Herder), Semenov maple, occurring in Afghanistan, Turkestan, Bokhara, and the Tien Shan mountains. 11. Afrā korkdār (Acer pentapomicum J. L. Stewart ex Brandis), found in Afghanistan, Pakistan (1,380-3,000 m), and Turkestan.


E. Boissier, Flora Orientalis, Geneva, 1867, I, pp. 947-52.

W. P. Hearn in J. D. Hooker, Flora of British India, London, 1875, pp. 692-96.

F. Pax in Engler, Das Pflanzenreich 4(163), Heft 8, 1902, pp. 1-80.

A. I. Pojarkov, Acta Instituti botanici Academiae Scientiarum SSSR, ser. I, 1, 1933, pp. 225-374.

Idem, “Aceraceae,” Flora SSSR XIV, 1949, pp. 580-622; English tr., loc. cit., 1974, pp. 443-76.

A. Parsa, Flore de l’Iran, Tehran, 1952, I, pp. 1533-46; VIII, 1960, p. 3.

P. H. Davis, Flora of Turkey, Edinburgh, 1966, II, pp. 508-19.

E. Murray and K. H. Rechinger in Flora Iranica 61/30.4, 1969, pp. 1-11.

Michael Zohary, Flora Palaestina, Jerusalem, 1972, pp. 301-02.

(A. Parsa)

Originally Published: December 15, 1984

Last Updated: July 28, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 6, pp. 569-570

Cite this entry:

A. Parsa, “AFRĀ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/6, pp. 569-570; an updated version is available online at (accessed on 14 March 2014).