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Acer Griseum - Paper Bark Maple.

 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

  • Whilst the uncommon peeling paper bark is the talked-about feature, the foliage colour in the autumn is as spectacular as that of the family group of maples - even though it is a Chinese, rather than Japanese maple. According to your type of soil, it can either be flame red or rich golden yellow – or of course any of the orange foliage shades in between. Acid soils of a sandy silt nature tend to provide the red foliage, whilst heavier clay type soils will enlighten your dark autumn days with golden foliage.

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!

Image of peeling bark on Acer griseumFor 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.

Propagation of Paper Bark Maple.

  • Don’t be too ambitious in collecting the seed, for they are not the best at germinating. Far better to note where the land and be patient until the following late spring when you might find a few seedlings. A plus point being that the Acer griseum seedlings will come true to form of the parent.
    If you consider yourself a good propagator, it is possible to grow young Acers from semi-ripe cuttings in late spring or early summer.

Pruning of Acer griseum

  • Pruning is rarely required – other than removing any die-back after initial planting.  Any pruning that needs to be done is best carried out after leaf fall in autumn. Late winter or spring pruning will lead to heavy bleeding of sap, making it difficult for the pruning cut to heal and also weaken the tree.

Good plants for association

  • Under-planting with low growing variegated evergreens – such as Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’ or Euonymus ‘Emerald m’ Gold’ will give a good associated effect during most months. For something a little different, try a group of assorted Euphorbias, with silver grey foliage and lime yellow flowers. Larger areas would look quite stunning if planted in association with Dogwoods.

Acers main section  


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