Connect With UsBecome a Member

paperbark maple

Acer_griseum_treepaperbark maple, Acer griseum

Scientific Name

Acer is Latin for “sharp” and may also be from the Celtic ac, which means “hard” in reference to the wood; griseum means “gray” which refers to the underside of the leaf.

Common Name

Paperbark maple is named for its paper-like, peeling bark. Other names include Chinese paperbark maple.


Paperbark maple is native to central China. Trees grow in moist, sheltered sites. It was introduced into cultivation by Veitch in 1901.


Not native to Kentucky.


Growth Habit and Form

Paperbark maple is a small, deciduous tree with a neat, compact shape. Trees typically grow 20 to 30 feet in height with a spread equal to height. The trunk is short and the canopy oval or rounded.


The blunt, toothed leaves are opposite and trifoliate (comprised of three leaflets). Leaflets are dark green above with paler hairy undersides. Paperbark maple displays excellent fall color. Leaves turn an array of bright red and orange colors in the fall.


Flowers are green, small and inconspicuous; they bloom in spring.


Fruit is a pair of winged seeds called samaras. Each samara is less than 2 in. long. The fruits ripen in the fall and are scattered by wind.


Acer_griseum_barkThe bark is brown to reddish brown and peels away to reveal new rich, cinnamon colored bark. Exquisite bark character develops early as second year wood usually exfoliates. The bark of this tree is one of the most decorative barks of any maple tree.

Wild and Cultivated Varieties

Unlike many other species of maple, the paperbark maple has no wild or cultivated varieties.


Landscape Use

Paperbark maple is one of the most beautiful and recognizable of all the maples. It is an outstanding ornamental tree. Trees make a wonderful specimen.

Hardiness Zone

Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 7.

Growth Rate

Growth rate is slow, 6 to 12 inches per year over a 10 to 15 year period.

Cultivation and Propagation Information

Trees do best in moist, well-drained soils, both acid and alkaline. Trees perform well in clay soils. Paperbark maple grows best in full sun although tolerates partial shade. Balled and burlapped and container grown trees can be transplanted in spring. Paperbark maple may be propagated by seed, but the rate of seed viability is usually very low.

Diseases and Insects

None serious

Wildlife Considerations

Maple trees provide homes, shelter and food for wildlife.

Maintenance Practices

Minimal attention given appropriate cultural conditions.


Paperbark tree is a native of China but has become an ornamental favorite in North America and Europe.