Common Name: Japanese maple.
Etymology: Acer – Maple tree, palmatum – palm shaped leaves that radiate.
Origin: Japan, China, Korea, eastern Mongolia and Southeastern Russia.
Description: Small to medium deciduous tree usually growing 6-10m but on rare occasions to 16m. It usually has multiple trunks joining close to the ground with a broad rounded canopy and is often seen as an under-story plant in its natural environment. There are, however, hundreds of cultivars that vary on this theme and even the original tree can show many different traits including varying from upright to weeping.
Foliage: The leaves are 4-12cm long and wide, palmately lobed with five, seven or nine acutely pointed lobes. Foliage can turn vivid shades of yellow, bronze orange or red as the cold weather of winter approaches.
Bark: Smooth green reddish.
Flowers: Not showy are produced in small cymes, the individual flowers have five red or purple sepals and five whitish petals.
Fruit: Elongated red winged samaras 2-3cm long with a 6-8mm seed. The seeds of Japanese maple require stratification (endure 90 day cold period) in order to germinate.
Growth Requirements: Rich, well drained soil full sun to part shade, plant will not tolerate wet feet. Plant prefers a temperate climate. Keep away from extreme sun and high winds that may burn leaves.
Uses: Japanese style garden, bonsai, feature tree, autumn colour gardens, cool climate gardens, in a pot.
Maintenance: Regular watering (particularly when young) as tree is prone to dying in extended periods of drought, mulch well to help prevent this. Trees do not require much fertilizing and particular care should be taken to avoid nitrogen based fertilizer (nitrogen is heavy in lawn fertilizers) as this will promote fast, vigorous growth that will be weak and prone to pests and disease.
Propagation: Usually from ripe seed in autumn and exposed to natural conditions, will self sow easily in prefered climate. Cultivars are often done by grafting, budding, cuttings, tissue culture or layering from desired trees.