According to Kew Species Profiles[KSP]
- General Description
The paperbark maple is an ornamental tree with peeling, copper-brown bark. Its leaves start orange in spring, then turn successively pinkish-brown, yellow and deep green through summer and finally end up deep red in autumn.
This slowly growing deciduous tree has a distinctive papery, coppery brown bark that peels away in curly flakes. It was collected in China by the French missionary Père Paul Farges and the Irish plantsman Augustine Henry. It was originally described by Adrien Franchet in 1894 as a variety of the Japanese maple, Acer nikoense. It was recollected by Ernest Wilson, introduced into Britain in 1901 and given its present name by Ferdinand Pax in 1902.
- Species Profile
Geography and distribution
Found in central China in Gansu, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Sichuan provinces, between 1,500 – 2,000 m elevation. Widely cultivated in temperate countries.
Acer griseum is a deciduous tree up to 20 m tall, but often smaller in cultivation. The bark is reddish-brown and peels in small sheets. The leaves have three leaflets that are downy underneath with downy stalks. The leaflets have coarse, blunt teeth, measuring 3–8 cm long and 2–5 cm across. The flowers are small, few, and yellow on pendulous downy stalks up to 3 cm. The wind-dispersed samaras (fruits with papery wings) are pale brown, downy, with spreading or nearly erect wings and hard round nutlets.
Threats and conservation
Acer griseum is listed as Endangered (EN A2c). Although it is found naturally over a large area of central China, the population is now fragmented, small and declining.
Acer griseum is a popular ornamental tree. It has received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
'Chinese' Wilson and Kew
In April 1899, Ernest Henry Wilson was sent to China by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to investigate the effect of the charcoal industry on forests, as well as being employed to look for new and interesting plants by James Veitch & Sons’ Nursery, Chelsea. Later, Wilson became known as 'Chinese' Wilson and eventually brought over a thousand garden plants to cultivation in Europe and America, including many well-known species, such as Acer griseum, Davidia involucrata (handkerchief tree) and Lilium regale (regal lily).
Propagation is difficult as this species tends to produce fruits with no viable embryos. It is therefore seldom successfully grown from seed by the amateur.
Fine specimens can be seen in a number of well-established gardens in Europe and southern England, where it does particularly well, growing on most well-drained soils including chalk.
This species at Kew
Acer griseum can be seen in several locations at Kew – in the Bamboo Garden, to the north of the Princess of Wales Conservatory, in the Director’s Garden, and from the Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway. It can also be found north of the Lily Pond at Wakehurst.
Alcohol-preserved specimens of Acer griseum are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these specimens can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.
- Mixed forest.
- Endangered (EN) according to IUCN Red List criteria in The Red List of Maples.
- Paperbark maple
First published in Pflanzenr., IV, 163: 30 (1902)
-  Govaerts, R. (1995) World Checklist of Seed Plants 1(1, 2): 1-483, 529. MIM, Deurne.
-  Meyer, P. W. (2010). Paperbark maple Acer griseum. Arnoldia 68: 48-50.
-  The Plant List (2010). Acer griseum.
-  Flanagan, M. & Kirkham, T. (2009). Wilson's China: A Century On. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
-  Gibbs, D. & Chen, Yousheng. (2009). The Red List of Maples. Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Richmond, Surrey. (accessed 5 October 2011)
-  Van Gelderen, D. M., de Jong, P. C. & Oterdoom, H.J. (1994). Maples of the World. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
-  Bean, W. J. (1989). Trees & Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles. Vol. 1. John Murray, London.
International Plant Names Index
The International Plant Names Index (2016). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org
[A] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families(2016). Published on the Internet http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
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[E] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index and World Checkist of Selected Plant Families. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0