Tree of the Week – Part 4: The Japanese Acer


Japanese Acer in full autumn foliageJapanese Acer – Acer palmatum

The Japanese Acer, like last week’s Tree of the Week the Silver Birch, makes an ideal garden tree for anyone. They won’t all grow into veritable giants like the one pictured above.

These beauties make perfect garden trees and some will even be happy in a pot on the patio as long as you pick the right variety and give it the right conditions. A Japanese Acer is one of the most beautiful sights come the Autumn – the foliage can be any colour from ridiculous lime green, through yellows, oranges, reds and even purples. They’re quite slow growing and shouldn’t be pruned other than the careful removal of any dead, diseased or damaged growth.

Just look at some of the colours and shapes available – imagine a tiny forest of these growing in pots in your garden?!

Acer palmatum leaf showing orange and greenAcer palmatum 'Bloodgood' Acer palmatum leaves - acid green and crimson Acer palmatum var. dissectum with bronze leaves Acer palmatum var. dissectum purple leaves


Tree of the Week Facts, figures and legends!

  • The Latin term Acer means ‘sharp’ which is either because the wood was used to make lances, or (more likely) refers to the pointed leaf shape. Palmatum is a really easy one though – palm or hand shaped!
  • If you want to see Japanese Acers at their best, look out for Chinese or Japanese style gardens such as: Tatton Park in Cheshire, The Japanese Garden near Newquay, The National Botannic Garden of Wales or look for your nearest Arboretum because they nearly always have a collection of Acers!
  • In its natural setting, the Japanese Acer is an understory plant. This means that it pops up under the shady canopy of larger trees in woodlands. Keep this in mind if you decide to grow one – bright, continuous sunshine will crisp the ends of those delicate leaves. Try to keep them sheltered from winds too – the drying action of wind across the leaf surface can be a killer!
  • If you like the idea of growing one in a pot, why not try the curious art of bonsai. Japanese Acer trees are very popular subjects for this restricted form of growth!

Personal favourites/recommendations/wish list trees:

  • Some of the earliest introduced (and therefore, oldest in the country) can be found in the China Garden at Biddulph Grange Garden in Staffordshire.
  • A truly beautiful recreation of a Japanese Garden containing Japanese Acer trees can be discovered at Kew Gardens.

You can find out loads more about Japanese Acer and other Maple trees on websites such as:

Westonbirt Arboretum

Specimen Trees

Come back next week for Tree of the Week – Part 5