Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

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Scientific Name:
Acer palmatum
Edinburgh, E28 Map
Adopted, available Feb 2024

Native to Japan, Acer palmatum is a small deciduous tree, reaching a height of 6–10 m, and in the wild preferring shaded woodlands. Widespread throughout the Japanese islands, it also grows in North and South Korea, China, eastern Mongolia and southeast Russia. Brought into cultivation by the Japanese centuries ago, the species was first introduced to England in 1820. There now exist an extraordinary number of cultivars, grown in temperate areas around the world for their attractive leaf forms and colours, particularly spectacular during the autumn months.

For hundreds of years Japanese horticulturalists have developed cultivars from Eastern Asian maples. Following a trip to Japan in the late eighteenth century, the Swedish doctor and botanist Carl Peter Thunberg named the species palmatum after the hand-like shape of its leaves, in keeping with ancient Japanese terminology of their maples as kaede and momiji, meaning the hands of frogs and babies. Today, the species is popular in cultivation, due to its graceful, branching habit, colourful foliage, and readiness to respond to bonsai techniques. RBGE has recently undertaken a number of plant collection trips to Japan. Seed of this species, among many others, has been collected, and will enrich our garden collection.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)