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.
Paperbark maple is named for its paper-like, peeling bark. Other names include Chinese paperbark maple.
NATIVE RANGE AND HABITAT
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.
The 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.
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.
Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 7.
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
Maple trees provide homes, shelter and food for wildlife.
Minimal attention given appropriate cultural conditions.
TRADITIONAL AND MODERN USES
Paperbark tree is a native of China but has become an ornamental favorite in North America and Europe.