A superb small multi-branched tree, grown for spectacular peeling bark - Acer griseum, the Chinese Paperbark Maple. It can be grown as a large shrub, either at the back of a border or as a feature in a bed of shrubs or perennials. The bark peels away into small flakes which hang on the branches but do not hide the colourful orange-brown bark underneath. This welcome bark-peeling event happens when little else vies for attention, making it all the more welcome.
The acer griseum will start to flower in late spring with tiny clusters of yellow green flowers. The foliage will turn to a mid-green and in the autumn, the leaves will turn spectacular shades of orange and red.
Foliage effect in Autumn
The amount of sunlight also has a bearing upon autumn leaf colour. Unlike the Japanese Maples, this Chinese Paper-bark Maple is happy in full sun – also in dappled shade. I sometimes get emails from gardeners worrying about the tree not leafing up in the spring. It is late producing leaf, which is fine for it allows a longer spell of admiring the peeling bark flakes!
For the spring and summer months the foliage is dark green – but not oppressive – with each leaf being 3-lobed palmate leaves, long ovate in shape and around 4-5in (10cm) long.
Pruning is not necessary for this small tree. It should be planted in correct position - allowing for an ultimate height and spread of approx. 4-5 metres across with age. Growth rate is slow, so ultimate height will be in ten years or so. The paper bark maple is ideal as small tree in confined gardens or large shrub if grown multi-stemmed.
The flowers, though not abundant, are attractive pendant racemes if light yellow, which in turn are followed by the typical winged seeds which spiral off to a resting place nearby – depending upon strength of wind.