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Paperbark Maple Acer griseum

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
AY-ser grih-SAY-um
Description

Paperbark maple, a small, woody, deciduous tree in the Sapindaceae (maple) family, originates from Central China. It has an upright oval habit and grows slowly to 20 to 30 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide. The genus name is Latin for sharp and griseum means gray, perhaps alluding to the silvery gray undersides of this tree’s leaves.     

The paperbark maple prefers full sun to partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. It will grow in a variety of soil types, including sand, loam, or clay and is adaptable to a variety of pH levels. Balled and burlapped and containerized plants transplant well in the spring. The recommended propagation strategy is by seed or  stem cuttings; young stems are the easiest to root. 

Its most striking feature is its exfoliating bark which starts out as cinnamon-brown to reddish-brown and then takes on a purple-brown color. The bark peels back in papery curls but remains on the tree instead of falling to the ground. 

This hardy tree is one of the last maples to develop fall color and the leaves persist into winter. Consider using it in a children's, nighttime, pollinator, or winter garden. Given its smaller size it is well suited as an accent tree around a patio, in a townhouse garden, or a poolside hardscape.  It is also a popular bonsai tree. 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Leaves are compound, trifoliolate
  • Conspicuous pubescent petiole and lower vein axils are present
  • Exfoliating bark
  • Buds: 3-7 mm, brownish-black, sharply pointed, scales imbricate.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No significant problems.

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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#hardy#deciduous#small tree#shade tree#small spaces#interesting bark#wildlife plant#moths#bonsai#winter interest#fall interest#street tree#nighttime garden#children's garden#playground plant#courtyard garden#fantz#larval host plant#exfoliating bark#patio planting#bird friendly#fall color red#fall color orange#moth larvae#pollinator garden#woodland garden#imperial moth
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#hardy#deciduous#small tree#shade tree#small spaces#interesting bark#wildlife plant#moths#bonsai#winter interest#fall interest#street tree#nighttime garden#children's garden#playground plant#courtyard garden#fantz#larval host plant#exfoliating bark#patio planting#bird friendly#fall color red#fall color orange#moth larvae#pollinator garden#woodland garden#imperial moth
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Acer
    Species:
    griseum
    Family:
    Sapindaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central China
    Wildlife Value:
    Members of the genus Acer support Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) larvae which have one brood per season and appear from April-October in the south. Adult Imperial Moths do not feed.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Pieces Used in Games
    Textural
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Oval
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Samara
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    A schizocarp of two samaras, 1 1/2" long, wings divergent and with unusually large seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Insignificant
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Ornamentally insignificant flowers bloom from April-May.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    3"- 6" opposite, palmately compound trifoliate leaves. The middle leaflet is short-stalked. Silvery with fine hairs on the underside; bright red and orange fall color; one of the last maples to develop fall color; leaves persist into winter. Conspicuous pubescent petiole & lower vein axils.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Papery
    Peeling
    Bark Description:
    Extremely ornamental peels of bark that remain on the tree instead of falling to the ground. Purple-brown outer bark peels back in papery curls to reveal rose-brown inner bark.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Brown to reddish brown. Buds < 1/4", brownish-black, sharply pointed, scales imbricate.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Patio
    Pool/Hardscape
    Recreational Play Area
    Small Space
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Shade Tree
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Songbirds