Tales of Our Trees

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maples have been cultivated in Japan for centuries and in temperate areas around the world since the 1800s.

Acer palmatum is a species of woody plant native to eastern Asia. Hundreds of different cultivars of this maple have been selected, and they are grown world-wide for their large variety of attractive forms, leaf shapes, and spectacular colors. It is a deciduous shrub or small tree typically reaching heights of 15 to 25 ft., often growing as an understory plant in shady woodlands. The first specimen of the tree reached England in 1820. It is a small tree that has become synonymous with the high art of oriental gardens. At Kendal we have a number of these trees on the campus. There are many dwarf varieties of Japanese Maple. The designated Arboretum tree, No. 10 on the North Loop, is a member of the Amoenum Group of cultivars, adopted by Dorothy Flanagan. The Amoenum Group is one of three recognized principal groups of these trees; ours has an attractive dome-like shape.

The 11⁄2” to 2 1⁄2” leaves of our tree are palmate with 5 to 7 serrated lobes, and remain a deep purple throughout the growing season. The species was named palmatum after the hand-like shape of its leaves (other cultivars have deeply dissected leaves). The flowers are small, reddish purple, in terminal hanging clusters appearing in mid- to late spring. They are followed by samaras (two-winged seed pods or helicopters) that ripen in the autumn and spin to the ground as they fall. While the seeds can carry considerable distances, Japanese Maples are not considered an invasive species. They are a popular choice for bonsai enthusiasts and have long been a subject in art.

Martin Wells and Judy Czeiner, Photographer


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