Common Name: Paperbark Maple
Origin: Central China
Campus: CNE, CSE, KS
Notable Feature: Its distinctive, cinnamon-colored bark curls and peels into thin, papery flakes. When backlit by the sun, it glows as if on fire.
Habit: This handsome, upright, deciduous tree with its oval crown rarely reaches more than 30 feet high and 25 feet wide. Typically low-branching.
Flower: Non-showy, yellowish white flowers, borne in 1-inch long, pendulous clusters that appear with the unfurling leaves. Flowers are androdioecious (having male flowers and bisexual flowers on separate trees).
Fruit: In autumn papery, two-winged fruits (samaras), 1 to 1 ½” long, with unusually large seeds hang decoratively from the twigs and branches. Paperbark maple is extremely hard to propagate. Male trees produce no seeds and trees with perfect (bisexual) flowers often have seed that is not viable. Propagation from cuttings is also difficult.
Foliage: The opposite, dark bluish green leaf (3 to 5” long) with silvery and woolly undersides consists of three leaflets, each coarsely toothed or lobed. Fall foliage glows with pumpkin oranges and crimson reds.
Interesting Fact: Discovered in the forests of Central China by the famed plant hunter E. H. Wilson, the paperbark maple was brought to England in 1899 and to the U.S. in 1901. These specimens are alive today and can be seen at Westonbirt Arboretum in the U.K. and the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.