Acer palmatumA Japanese Maple

Family: Aceraceae

Origin: Japan, Korea and China

Acer palmatum is a deciduous large shrub or small tree of rounded or pyramidal habit, usually up to 8 m (25 ft) in cultivation, but much taller in the wild. Its leaves are up to 10 cm (4 inches) wide, bright green above and paler beneath, becoming bronzed in autumn; they are hairless above and below, except in the angles of the veins below. They are palmately lobed, with up to 7 deeply divided lobes; the edges are doubly serrated and sharply pointed; the lobes can range in shape from oblong to narrow and tapering. The petiole is up to 4 cm long. Small purple flowers are borne in erect umbels on a short stalk; the fruits have 1 cm ( inch) long keys with wings which are only cm (1/8 inch) wide; they are strongly incurved, forming a broad arch.

Introduced to England in 1820.

The specific epithet palmatum means lobed like a hand with outspread fingers.

Photographs from a garden in north Co Down 2002.

This tree is well-known in gardens in its many forms. Having been in cultivation in Japan for centuries, and also since its introduction to the West, many subspecies and varieties with differing leaf shape and colour have been selected, so many that a classification into groups has been created, based on leaf shape.

There are five main groups:-
palmatum, with palmate, 5-7 lobed leaves eg 'Senkaki' and 'Lutescens';
dissectum, with up to 9 lobes, which are nearly dissected to the base, featherlike and deeply serrated eg 'Crimson Queen' and 'Ornatum';
elegans, which has leaves mostly 7-lobed, narrowly spear-shaped, divided to the base, toothed or slightly incised, broader and less finely cut than the dissectum group eg 'Katsura' and 'Omurayama';
linearilobum, with 5-7 very narrow lobes, toothed, but not incised, divided to the base eg 'Linearilobum Atropurpureum'; and
variegated eg 'Butterfly', 'Higasayama' and 'Shigitatsu Sawa'.

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