Growing the Paperbark Maple - Acer griseum

A distant paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in a park
DEA - RANDOM/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

Overview of the Paperbark Maple:

When I was a child, I loved finding trees with peeling bark. The usual victims were eucalyptus trees. I would have fun tugging away some of the strips for examination.

These days I try to leave the bark on these kinds of trees more often so it can add to the beauty of the landscape it graces. The paperbark maple certainly fits the bill. The reddish-brown bark is constantly exfoliating, which is especially attractive in the winter when your yard might look a bit bleak.

They also have leaves that change to reddish-orange in the fall at a time when most maple trees have already finished turning.

Latin Name:

The paperbark maple is classified as Acer griseum and is a member of the Aceraceae family. Some place the maple tree genus in the Sapindaceae family.

You may also see Acer nikoense var. griseum.

Common Names:

This tree may either be spelled as paperbark maple or paper bark maple.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones:

This maple tree grows best in Zones 4-8 and originally comes from central China.

Size & Shape of the Paperbark Maple:

The mature size of this tree will be 15-30' tall and wide. This tree grows slowly so it will take years to reach this height. It is rounded, irregular or oval in shape.

Exposure:

You can place this tree in a location with full sun or partial shade.

Foliage/Flowers/Fruit of the Paperbark Maple:

This maple tree has leaves with three leaflets.

The leaf can be anywhere from 3-8" long. If you put them together, you'll be able to see the familiar palmate shape that maple trees share. This species is one of the last ones to change colors in the fall, transforming to orange-red.

The flowers are not the main attraction on this tree. The blooms appear in spring and are small and yellow-green, growing in clusters.

The fruit on this tree is the two-winged samaras that maple trees produce.

Design Tips For the Paperbark Maple:

This tree is a good potential choice for areas with clay soil. It can also tolerate drought after an establishment period, though the leaves tend to scorch if the drought persists.

Add this to your yard to make sure you have color in all four seasons. The reddish-brown bark will be present throughout the year and is especially eye-catching against a snowy backdrop.

Growing Tips For the Paperbark Maple:

This tree can thrive in a wide variety of soil pH conditions and textures. The best locations are moist with good drainage.

Propagation can be done by cuttings, grafting or seed. For grafting, use the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) as the rootstock for best results. The germination rate is very low, so cuttings are the best option.

Maintenance/Pruning:

You will need to decide whether you would like this tree to have a single trunk or multiple ones. Choose a central leader to create a single trunk. Otherwise, not much pruning will be required beyond the usual upkeep of removing any dead, diseased or damaged wood.

Pruning can be done as soon as the tree enters dormancy. If you are waiting until spring to prune, don't do it until later in the season as maples tend to bleed sap.

Pests & Diseases of the Paperbark Maple:

For the most part, pests pass by the paperbark maple. You may see aphids, caterpillars, mites, and scale.

Potential diseases include:

  • Anthracnose
  • Crown gall (Agrobacterium tumefaciens)
  • Leaf spot gall (Brought on by mites)
  • Phytophthora cankers and rots (Phytophthora spp.)
  • Verticillium wilt (Verticillium spp.)