Acer griseum - Sapindaceae


A small deciduous tree, which is slow growing and can fit in even small gardens. It has trifoliate leaves, which is unusual for a maple. Mostly grown for its vivid autumn colour and its magnificent bark!


EN: Paper-bark Maple, D: Zimt-Ahorn, FR: Érable à écorce de Papier, ESP: Arce de Papel, ZH: 血皮槭

A very beautiful, slow-growing, deciduous, small tree, dark grey or black buds are opposite on the branches, leaves are trifoliate, bluish green and downy beneath which turn to a bright red and scarlet in autumn, it has one of the best attractive bark that peels off in cinnamon-coloured flakes revealing a strong coppery colour underneath, flowers are very small and yellow, appearing in spring in pendent racemes with the emerging foliage, monoecious, followed by winged fruit in summer.

It was collected in China by the French missionary Père Paul Farges and the Irish plantsman Augustine Henry. It was originally described by Adrien Franchet in 1894 as a variety of the Japanese maple, Acer nikoense. It was re-collected by Ernest Wilson, introducing it to British cultivation in 1901 and given its present name by Ferdinand Pax in 1902.

Height: up to 10m (up to 35ft)

Trifoliate leaves distinguish A. griseum from other maples. Only A. maximowiczianum has also trifoliate leaves, although does not feature such stunning peeling bark.

Acer griseum foliage.

Winged fruit follow the spring flowers.

Newly planted trees should be staked for the first two years to avoid wind rock. After establishing remove stake. Otherwise no maintenance required. Pruning should be kept to a minimum as it would spoil its beautiful natural habit.

Leaf buds in winter.

Usually propagated by seeds. However, in cultivation seeds are mostly not viable and often empty. Seeds should be sown fresh into a light, sandy mix and kept in a cold frame, although protection from frosts recommended.

Meaning of plant name:
ACER: sharp-tasted, acid

GRISEUM: blue- or pearl-greyish, relates with grizzled

Central China, incl. Gansu, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Sichuan provinces, on mountain forests between 1500-2000m above sea level. Widely cultivated in temperate countries.

Growing conditions:
Grows in any fertile, well-drained soil, acid or alkaline, sand, chalk or loam, thrives in sun but will also tolerate partial shade, does not like wet or boggy conditions so only grows on clay soils when drainage has been thoroughly improved.

Hardiness: H5 - Hardy in most places throughout the UK even in severe winters (-15 to -10°C)

Pests and Diseases: Usually no problems.

Other useful information:
Acer griseum is listed as Endangered (EN A2c). Although it is found naturally over a large area of central China, the population is now fragmented, small and declining.

Acer griseum is a small tree with very attractive bark.

Famous for its peeling bark.

Shades of orange, copper and brown are revealed by the cinnamon flakes.

A group of Acer griseum.

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