Maple (Acer palmatum, japonicum, shirasawanum)
There are numerous amounts of Acers but only three species are frequently referred to as Japanese maples, and only the palmatum and japonicums are super common. Japanese Maples vary in heights; from dwarf such as “Waterfall” or “Red Select”(some maples will stay very small “dwarf” but many Japanese maples grow very slowly and will stay small for a very long time) to trees that are fast growing like the “Bloodgood” or “Emperor I” that will get upwards of 25 ft tall and 10-15 ft wide. These maples are slow (1-3” a year) to moderate (up to 2’ a year) growers, and in the best of conditions these gorgeous trees can live to be over a hundred years old. There are so many varieties to choose from and each one has its own unique quality. The three main ways to differentiate between maples; there are three color variations of leaves 1. Green 2. Red 3. Variegated, two styles of leaves dissectum “lace leaf” or palmatum “standard” and two growing habits upright and weeping. All Japanese maples have inconspicuous flowers (some more than others) that give way to fruits called “samaras” or “helicopters” which are seeds enclosed in a fibrous tissue that’s in the shape of wings. In cultivation seeds can be collected from mature maples, but the seedlings aren’t guaranteed to be exact duplicated of their parent plant. Cuttings is another way of propagating these ornamental trees, but they are usually slow growing, weak and hard to winter over. 95% of Japanese maples you see on the market are grafted! Grafting is where the selected variety is joined with a strong, seed grown root stock that makes them stronger growing together; it works well because the selected variety has a vigorous root system to absorb nutrient faster than trying to get it to grow its own root stock (which might never happen).