Japanese Maple - Acer palmatum Soapberry Family (Sapindaceae)

The Japanese maple is a short tree in the Sapindaceae (soapberry) family, native to southeast Korea and central and south Japan, and noted for having many aesthetically pleasing forms.1

Weeping as well as upright varieties exist, and the species is well noted for its beautiful deep red and orange summer color that deepens into the fall.1

Development of Japanese maple cultivars started in Japan in the 1700s, when gardeners selected and bred or used grafting to propagate attractive variants in leaf features, and overall size and form of the tree.

Currently, there may be more than 1000 varieties and cultivars present, including hybrids or grafts with species closely related to Acer plamatum, such as A. duplicatoserratum and A. japonicum (downy Japanese maple). Out of these, at least 350 cultivars are used in Europe and North America. The term “Japanese maple” does not represent one species and may be used to refer to any of the 23 species of Acer that are native to Japan.2

Japanese maple trees have palmately lobed leaves with five to nine serrated lobes. The leaves of japanese maple look like a hand with outstretched fingers.3

  1. Acer palmatum. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.
  2. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/acer-palmatum/. No Publication Date. Accessed January 24, 2024.
  3. Japanese Maple. Yale Nature Walk. https://naturewalk.yale.edu/trees/aceraceae/acer-palmatum/japanese-maple-42. No Publication Date. Accessed January 24, 2024.
  4. 32 Maple Trees: Types, Leaves, Bark – Identification Guide (Pictures). Leafyplace. https://leafyplace.com/maple-trees/. No Publication Date. Accessed December 04, 2023.
  5. https://cdn11.bigcommerce.com/s-90ad9/images/stencil/2560w/products/1749/2487/__76021.1617814528.jpg?c=2
  6. https://www.bartlett.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/japanese-maple-autumn-01.jpg
  7. https://fthmb.tqn.com/bFWd2FCjDA4aGNlt20GB2hc9Kc=/2900×2300/filters:fill(auto,1)/Crimson-Queen-big-56a5840d3df78cf77288ae36.jpg