February Plant of the Month: Acer griseum – Paperbark maple
Touring some landscapes I Have built after recent snowfalls confirmed what I always suspected: Acer griseum – paperbark maple – is a superb specimen for the winter landscape! The exfoliating reddish-cinnamon colored bark stands out prominently against a snowy backdrop. But its visual appeal is hardly limited to the winter season.
The green/blue foliage typically turns brilliant crimson red in autumn, and contrasts nicely against its revealing bark.
In the summer season – once established — this tree holds up well to hot, dry conditions. I suppose the season it lacks visual appeal – at least for the average gardener – is spring.
As is the case with most maples, the flowers – few and far between, greenish in color and pendulous in form – are hardly show-stoppers during the season of non-stop blooming. But don’t let that keep you from including this tree in your landscape.
There are plenty of ‘one-trick-pony’ trees that bloom profusely in springtime. But few that garner this accolade from plant guru Michael Dirr: “No finer tree could be
Typically maturing at a height of 20-30’, with a similar spread, but often with variable form (this is a good thing!), Acer griseum, a native of China, is an excellent choice as a specimen tree for small properties, within a lawn setting, or as an accent plant if planted against an evergreen backdrop.
This plant tolerates tough urban conditions and varied soil types. For best results, plant in loamy well drained soils in full sun. Hardy zones 4-8.
The oldest living specimen in the United States is reputed to be at Boston’s Arnold Arboretum (see picture).
Go see it and you’ll be hooked!