As winter approaches, it’s hard not to notice how empty and colorless the garden looks. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) offers beauty in a barren landscape. After its leaves have blazed crimson, gold, and burgundy in autumn, and then dropped, the maple’s glorious shaggy bark is revealed. The deep cinnamon bark slowly peels away to reveal an orange-red color beneath. Small in stature and tidily oval-shaped, paperbark maple is an outstanding choice for winter interest.
Common name: Paperbark maple
Botanical name: Acer griseum
Plant type: Tree
Zones: 4 to 8
Height: 20 to 30 feet
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Moist, well-drained
• Moisture: Medium
• Mulch: None needed.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed.
Pests and diseases
• No major insect or disease problems.
• A. griseum is excellent as a specimen or placed at the back of a border.
• Paperbark maple is a perfect tree for small or tight spaces.
• A. griseum is a slow grower (6 to 12 inches per year).
• The tree produces nutlets, called samaras, that are 1½ to 2 inches long.
All in the family
• Paperbark maple used to be costly and rare, but it is now more readily available.
• Many taxonomists currently include the maple family, Aceraceae, in Sapindaceae.
• Sapindaceae also includes many species of valuable tropical fruit trees, such as longan, lychee, and pitomba.
Where to buy
• Forestfarm, Williams, OR, 541-846-7269, www.forestfarm.com
• Plant and Gnome, Charleston, WV, 304-881-7037, www.plantandgnome.com
• Tiny Treasures Nursery, Salem, OR, 503-508-7878, www.tinytreasurenursery.com
(Text by Elyse Lucas, photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)