Acer palmatum Thunb.

Japanese Maple

Small broad-crowned tree to about 5-7 m tall with thin red twigs. Bark green to grey but variable in cultivars. Leaves with blades 5-10 cm wide with 5(7-11) lobes, each cut more than halfway (further in most cultivars) with the central one longest; margins finely double-toothed and with hair tufts in the vein axils below; orange-red in autumn. Leaf stalk 3-4 cm long, swollen at the base, often red. Flowers in small purple clusters; Sept-Oct. Fruit with wings widely spread, to about 1-2 cm wide, brightly coloured on cultivars.

Widely cultivated with numerous cultivars supplied by specialist nurseries in a multitude of different leaf shapes and colours.

Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Eastern China.

Leaves typically 5-lobed and double-toothed, the lobes with tapered tips.

Vertrees (1987), van Gelderen et al. (1994).

Cultivars: The cultivars are sometimes split into 2 groups: the Palmatum group, with 5-7-lobed leaves like those of the species, and the Dissectum group, which includes all those with 7-11 slender, deeply dissected lobes cut almost to the base of the leaf blade. The cultivar groupings used here follow Vertrees (1987) and van Gelderen et al. (1994).

GROUP 1 PALMATUM Upright shrubs or small trees. Leaves with 5 lobes (rarely 7, the 2 additional lobes small) like those of the species. Fruits small to medium-sized.

  • Leaves green or with reddish margins
  • Leaves purple-red or red, sometimes fading to dark green
  • Leaves variegated with pink, cream or white

GROUP 2 AMOENUM Upright shrubs or small trees. Leaves with 7 or occasionally 9-lobed leaves cut to half the depth of the blade or slightly more. Fruits medium to large, often red and in clusters.

  • Leaves green or green with purple margins
  • Leaves purple sometimes greenish purple in summer

GROUP 3 MATSUMURAE Mostly broad shrubs. Leaves with 7 lobes (rarely 9) cut almost to the base, the margins saw-toothed or cut.

  • Leaves green
  • Leaves purple, sometimes fading to dark green
  • Leaves with reticulate dark green veins on pale background
  • Leaves white and green to predominantly pink

GROUP 4 DISSECTUM  Mostly mushroom-shaped shrubs less than 4 m tall. Leaves 7-lobed, the lobes cut to the base and saw-toothed, sometimes quite deeply, to give the leaves a 'ferny' appearance characteristic of the group.

  • Leaves green
  • Leaves purple or brown sometimes fading to green

GROUP 5 LINEARILOBUM Upright slow growing shrubs to about 4 m tall but generally smaller. Leaves 7-lobed, the lobes narrowed to the main vein (or nearly so) and deeply divided to the base.

  • leaves green
  • Leaves purple or brown

GROUP 6 DWARF (BONSAI, PENJING) Dwarf cultivars used for bonsai/penjing, tubs and pots. Mostly less than 1 m tall, slow growing, with small leaves. The small habit with tiny leaves condensed on the branches may be the result of selection from witches' brooms.

Source: Spencer, R. (2002). Aceraceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 3. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 2. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

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Distribution map

Acer palmatum 'Aoyagi'

Upright shrub with bright green branches and branchlets. Leaves pale green, becoming yellow in autumn.The name means Green Willow.Originated in Japan in 19th century.

Acer palmatum 'Aratama'

Dwarf shrub. Leaves brick red, darker in the centre. A bud sport of 'Komurasaki'.

Acer palmatum 'Aureum'

Leaves yellow with scarlet margins. New growth yellow, richest in autumn. Uk, 19th century.

Acer palmatum 'Autumn Glory'

Large shrub or small tree. Leaf colour combinations variable but exceptional in autumn. Seedling variant int. by r. de Belder, Kalmthout Arboretum, Belgium, 1950s.

Acer palmatum 'Beni-komachi'

Leaves bright red at first, divided almost to the base to form widely spread lobes, the lower ones facing downwards. The colour changes to green in summer before becoming scarlet in autumn.

Acer palmatum 'Beni-shigitatsu-sawa'

Low shrub. Leaves pinkish with extremely pale green colourings. ['Aka-shigitatsu-sawa']

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'

Leaves 5-lobed with 2 small basal lobes, extremely dark purple, the colour not changing in autumn. Fruits red-winged. Probably an old Dutch cultivar, sold to the Bloodgood Nsy, Long Island, New York, by the firm Ebbinge & van Groos of Boskoop, Holland.

Acer palmatum 'Brocade'

Branchlets slightly pendulous. Leaves purple at first but soon becoming green, turning to scarlet or orange in autumn.

Acer palmatum 'Burgundy Lace'

Shrubs eventually to 5 m or so tall. Leaves deeply dissected, serrated along the length of the margins, becoming green late in the season. Raised in usa, c. 1950.

Acer palmatum 'Butterfly'

Australian-raised. A witches' broom sport with yellow, not white, variegation.

Acer palmatum 'Coonara Pygmy'

Dwarf, dense, rounded shrub to 1.5 m tall with leaves of different shape and size, bright orange in autumn. Raised at Yamina Rare Plants Nsy,Vic.

Acer palmatum 'Corallinum'

Slow growing small, compact shrub. Leaves pink at first but becoming dark green, sometimes with pink colourings. Possibly raised at Hilliers Nsy, uk, in the 19th century.

Acer palmatum 'Crimson Queen'

Low, broad habit to about 2 m tall with strongly weeping branches. Leaves deep reddish purple throughout the summer, finely dissected. Int. America, c. 1965.

Acer palmatum 'Dissectum Atropurpureum'

, Purple Weeping Japanese Maple. A name believed to cover a range of purplish red-leaved clones in the Dissectum Group and best discarded. The name 'Ornatum' is now used although the exact application of this name, in turn, is not certain.

Acer palmatum 'Dissectum Palmatifidum'

A widely used name but the distinction between this cultivar and 'Dissectum' is not clear.

Acer palmatum 'Dissectum'

, Green Weeping Japanese Maple. Dwarf, generally grafted,mostly more than 1m tall and wide with drooping, sometimes twisted, branches. Leaves yellow or orange to scarlet in autumn; lobes with large teeth. Unfortunately the name may apply to a range of clones. ['Dissectum Viride']

Acer palmatum 'Filigree'

Small shrub with characteristic mushroom shape of the group. Leaf lobes deeply dissected to give an extremely ferny appearance, pale green with hint of white. Int. Usa, c. 1955.

Acer palmatum 'Garnet'

Similar to 'Crimson Queen' but a large shrub with less dissected leaves. Discovered by Messrs Guldemond, Boskoop, Holland, as a chance seedling and int. c. 1959.

Acer palmatum 'Goshiki-kotohime'

Upright, slow growing shrub to about 1 m tall, often with pinkish or pale new growth. Leaf lobes irregularly dissected, the older leaves dark green, slightly crinkled and variegated. Japan.

Acer palmatum 'Hanama-nishiki'

Slow growing to 1 m or so tall. Leaves pale yellow-green with reddish margins. Japan.

Acer palmatum 'Higasayama'

Narrow shrub or small tree. Leaves 7-lobed, with margins variegated cream and pink. Japan, c.1900.

Acer palmatum 'Inaba-shidare'

Fast growing with open habit. Purple colour of leaves is generally maintained. Japan, c.1930.

Acer palmatum 'Kagiri-nishiki'

Large, upright shrub. Leaves small, margins variegated white and pink. ['Roseomarginatum']

Acer palmatum 'Kamagata'

Leaves divided almost to the base with narrow, widely spread lobes. Purplish in spring, turning green before becoming brilliant orange to yellow in autumn. Selected and named by j.d.Vertrees, c. 1970.

Acer palmatum 'Kashima'

Extremely slow growing. Leaves small, similar in shape to typical a. palmatum. B.

Acer palmatum 'Kiyohime'

Dwarf shrub to 2 m tall. Leaves small, dark bluish green, margins reddish.

Acer palmatum 'Komon-nishiki'

Dwarf shrub. Leaves yellow and yellow-green variegated. Japan, early 20th century.

Acer palmatum 'Linearilobum'

Shrub to 4 m or so tall. Leaves bright green with extremely narrow lobes that turn yellow in autumn. Int. France, c. 1867. ['Scolopendrifolium']

Acer palmatum 'Matsukaze'

Large shrub to 4-5 m tall, branches slightly pendulous. Leaves bronzish when opening, becoming green before turning a spectacular crimson in autumn. Lobes saw-toothed but not so deeply as other members of the group. 18th century, Japan.

Acer palmatum 'Murasaki-hime'

Leaves purple becoming green. Japan.

Acer palmatum 'Mure-hibare'

Medium-sized shrub with deeply cut leaves that are purplish at first, becoming golden or crimson in autumn. Japan, 19th century.

Acer palmatum 'Nuresagi'

Shrub to 5 m tall. The leaves 5-lobed with 2 additional small lobes. Leaves maintaining their dark purple colouration and with a white pubescence when young.

Acer palmatum 'Okushimo'

Sometimes growing to a tree several metres tall. Leaves with 7 narrow lobes, dark green, changing to orange and yellow in autumn. Originated in 18th century Japan.

Acer palmatum 'Omurayama'

Small tree, sometimes grown as a standard, with semi-pendulous branches. Leaves orange at first, becoming green before changing to crimson and gold in autumn. Japan.

Acer palmatum 'Oridono-nishiki'

Upright cultivar with leaves pink or white, often with pink predominant. Japan, 19th century.

Acer palmatum 'Ornatum'

, Bronze Weeping Japanese Maple.Wide-spreading and growing to 4 m or more tall. Leaves dark purple at first, becoming deep red, then green and eventually golden in autumn. The name, 'Dissectum Atropurpureum', which may apply to many clones, has been abandoned in favour of this name. ['Dissectum Atropurpureum']

Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'

Shrub or small tree. Leaves orange at first, becoming green before developing a brilliant crimson colouration in autumn. Japan, 19th century. ['Taihai']

Acer palmatum 'Otohime'

Leaves with extremely long stalks, bright green, turning yellow in autumn. Japan.

Acer palmatum 'Peaches And Cream'

Leaves densely arranged, variegated and with pink and salmon colourings. Found as a seedling of 'Reticulatum' possibly pollinated by 'Beni-shigitatsu-sawa', c. 1980. A variegated selection from Yamina Rare Plants Nsy, Olinda, Vic.

Acer palmatum 'Pendulum Julian'

Similar to 'Ornatum' but with pendulous branches, less divided leaf lobes and orange-yellow foliage in autumn. May be grown as a standard. Japan.

Acer palmatum 'Red Filigree Lace'

Slow growing and sometimes used effectively as a grafted standard. Leaves with the most finely and narrowly divided lobes within the group. Arose as a chance seedling found by nurseryman,w. Curtis. After being grown by a number of nurseries it was finally int. by Jean Iseli, nurseryman of Boring, Oregon.

Acer palmatum 'Red Pygmy'

Slow growing small shrubs. Leaves with linear lobes, dark red at first, changing to green, then becoming golden yellow in autumn. Int. 1969, c. Esveld, Boskoop, Holland.

Acer palmatum 'Sagara-nishiki'

Dwarf shrub. Leaves with yellow margins or completely yellow, often with 2 small extra lobes. Japan, 19th century.

Acer palmatum 'Sangokaku'

Shrub growing to more than 5 m tall. Branches brilliant red in winter. Leaves small, green, turning yellow in autumn. Japan, 19th century. ['Senkaki']

Acer palmatum 'Seiryu'

Although placed in the Dissectum Group, this cultivar is an exception in that it is a small tree with an upright habit and growing to 5 m or so tall. Leaves dark green, becoming brownish purple in autumn. Japan, 19th century.

Acer palmatum 'Sekimori'

Low shrub. Leaves large, dark green, with slightly less dissected lobes than other members of the group. Also characterised by its yellow autumn foliage and white-flecked bark. May be grafted as a standard. Japan, 18th century.

Acer palmatum 'Sherwood Flame'

A large shrub similar to 'Burgundy Lace' but retaining its colour through the season. A chance seedling of 'Burgundy Lace' raised in the usa by Will Curtis and int. c. 1970.

Acer palmatum 'Shigitatsu-sawa'

Shrub to 5 m or so tall. Leaves pale yellow with characteristic green vein reticulations. Japan, 19th century. ['Reticulatum'] a cultivar called 'Reticulatum Como' was raised at Chandlers Nsy, Melbourne.

Acer palmatum 'Shin-deshojo'

Small shrub. Young shoots dark purple. Leaves small, occasionally 7- lobed, bright scarlet at first, becoming blue-green. A good bonsai plant.

Acer palmatum 'Sumi-nagashi'

Upright shrub or small tree. Leaves large, dark purple at first, becoming maroon, then crimson in autumn. Raised in Japan and int. c. 1930.

Acer palmatum 'Tamukeyama'

Tips of branches pendulous; will make a good standard. Leaves crimson at first but soon turning dark purple, this colour retained through summer before turning claret in autumn. Raised in Japan, probably early 20th century.

Acer palmatum 'Trompenburg'

Upright shrub to small tree. Leaves opening dark purple, becoming brownish red until in autumn the colour turns to scarlet. A characteristic of this cultivar is the tendency for the leaf lobes to fold under and become almost tubelike. A chance seedling discovered by j. van Hoey Smith and named after his arboretum. Int. by c. Esveld, Boskoop, Holland.

Acer palmatum 'Ukigumo'

Small shrub to 2 m or so tall, useful for bonsai. Leaves with irregular white and pink patterning. Japan.

Acer palmatum 'Villa Taranto'

Small upright bush to 2 m or so tall. Leaves with 5 linear lobes that are reddish orange at first, becoming green and eventually bright yellow in autumn. Similar to 'Red Pygmy' except in leaf colour. Discovered in the gardens of Villa Taranto, Pallanza, Italy. Named and int. by c. Esveld, Boskoop, Holland, c.1967.

Acer palmatum 'Waterfall'

The distinction between this plant and 'Dissectum' is not established. 'Waterfall' may well be a commercial name with no botanical standing. Int. Usa, c. 1920.

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Rosanae
order      Sapindales
family       Sapindaceae
genus        Acer L.