December: Paperbark Maple

If you've never heard of Paperbark Maple, you're not alone. This small, showy member of the maple family is rarely seen in gardens here in Indiana, and it deserves much more love and attention.

Paperbark Maple is an import from Asia, where it often grows as an under-story tree in mountain forests of central China. It is valued as an ornamental tree for its compact mature size, attractive peeling bark, and bright fall color. It makes a great single specimen plant in a small yard. You may not recognize the tree as a maple at first because its compound leaves don't fit the stereotypical maple leaf shape, but its winged double samara seeds will be familiar. The canopy is typically not very dense, so even in the height of summer you can see through the leaves to the twining cinnamon-colored branches in. It is not for every site, as it doesn't tolerate drought or high pH well, but there are many Indiana landscapes where it would be at home.

By Rudolf Schäfer Darmstadt - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

By Rudolf Schäfer Darmstadt - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Common Name: Paperbark Maple

Scientific Name: Acer griseum

Light: full sun to part shade

Form: oval to round shape

Size: 20-30' tall, 15-25' wide

Soil: prefers consistent moisture without being waterlogged, tolerates clay soil

Blooms: inconspicuous in spring

Other Notes: fall color varies, but can be bright red or orange; cinnamon colored peeling bark great for winter
 

See other plants of the month.


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