Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)

With Autumn in full force we focus on a small tree that boasts spectacular autumn colour and a year round interest. Its common name indicates the uniqueness of its bark, and we encourage you to keep an eye out over the next few weeks for the change in leaf colour.

The paperbark maple is native to central China and was introduced to Europe in 1901. A small ornamental, it grows to only 5-7m at maturity and it boasts the RHS Award of Merit.

Even in its infancy the young slender bark peels and is equally effective to the larger visual impact of the peeling bark on a mature tree. The peeling layers reveal an intense cinnamon trunk which does not change throughout its life but does mature to a more intense brown-red with age. If you are lucky enough to have this tree planted in your garden or see one on your travels regularly, you’ll be rewarded every spring with the sight of the young copper buds opening to a rich green leaf. These small vibrant young leaves can appear to glow and really compliment the copper bark backdrop. It’s an instant reminder in springtime to the vibrant qualities of the paper bark and a preview of the vibrant colour contrasts which it will produce in Autumn.

Photo by Paul Hunter

The paperbark maple is grown as much for its foliage as the bark and fortunately at this time of the year the foliage does not take second place. The leaves on the tree are also small, deeply cut and trifoliate (meaning that they have three lobes). While the bark impresses all year from now the leaves turn dramatically from the intense green to create a real mix of colours including pink, to orange, to scarlet red just before falling. At this point the bark is exposed and at its most visible like a badge of honour. It is interesting to note that the intensity of this leaf colour is affected by a nutrient rich wet soil so no two trees will provide exactly the same visual performance. Each is totally unique!


Where to find it?

The paperbark maple is a true ornamental and non-native so you’ll never find this tree unless it had been planted. It’s a slow grower so you’ll find it regularly in large or small gardens as a feature. If you were to plant this tree we suggest you plant it in full view of your window where you will benefit from seeing it every day. Those who have the patience will be happy to see it gracefully mature for many years to come.

Photo by Laura Francis

Along the Connswater Community Greenway you can see a collection of them around the events space in C.S. Lewis or also as multi stem variations at Marsh-wiggle Way.

Be Part of it…

We welcome any images that capture the contrasting colour of stem and leaf and any images that  highlight the leaves changing colour.