Plant Profile: Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum)


In Monday’s Did You Know? post, I mentioned the Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) and I promised that we’d look at it further in future posts. Well, today’s the day so let’s dive in. Paperbark Maple is a delightful small tree that reaches 20′-30′ tall by  15′-25′ wide at maturity. It is a slow grower so it will take many years to reach its ultimate size. In commercial settings, this plant would perform brilliantly in a courtyard where a more typical maple would overpower the space. In a residential setting, this tree can be used as a specimen or in front of evergreens to show off its beautiful bark. Paperbark Maple is often sold as a multi-stemmed tree but single leaders are available as well.

Acer griseum prefers moist, well-drained soil but will tolerate less. If it is planted in a particularly droughty area of the landscape, it will most certainly languish. This immediately rules it out for streetscape plantings where the trees are planted in those tiny little tree wells in the middle of a concrete jungle. Most gardeners enjoy tending their landscape so once it is established, it can fare quite well in most gardens. Acer griseum is native to China and is hardy in Zones 4-8. This fits the bill for all of the Mid-Atlantic gardening region.

Paperbark Maple is grown primarily for its beautiful, cinnamon colored exfoliating bark that is best noticed when the tree is bare in the winter. It is particularly breathtaking when viewed against a snowy backdrop. The bark peels off in curious thin, curly strips…in fact it’s hard to resist peeling the bark as you pass it by. Another noteworthy characteristic of this species is that it tends to cast dappled shade so ornamentals can be grown underneath…this is very different from the dense shade that a red maple or sugar maple cast.

The leaves of Acer griseum are a bit different from the typical red or sugar maple as well. The leaves consist of three lobes that sort of resemble poison ivy to me (remember the saying, leaves of 3, leave them be). Its leaves are plain jane during the summer but erupt into a magnificent array of colors in the fall. Paperbark Maple is often one of the last trees to change into its fall wardrobe, but the colors are magnificent…they can vary from yellow to orange, and red to pink. It’s interesting to note that the leaves can remain on the tree through the first part of winter in Virginia.

Paperbark Maple is not bothered by any serious pests or diseases so it can fit into almost any landscape. It’s especially at home in gardens where the caretaker is a bit more relaxed and likes for nature to take its course (that’s me by the way). If you have been looking for a tree that can fit into a small landscape and has year-round interest, Acer griseum should certainly be considered. I’d love to hear your opinions and experience with Paperbark Maple. Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at Happy gardening!

Oh, just to give you a heads up, I am going to start delving into vegetable gardening in this Friday’s post. I actually have a reader question that deals with veggies so I may begin tomorrow (there’s decisiveness for you). I have to warn you: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE vegetable gardening so this blog may tend to lean heavy in that direction for the next couple of weeks (or months). Send me your feedback and let me know if this is something that you are interested in…I’m here to help you with any gardening questions you have and I want to make sure that I’m meeting your needs. Thanks!


December 21, 2011Permalink 2 Comments

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