A Tale of 2 Trees or a Tree of 2 Halves?

A Tale of 2 Trees or a Tree of 2 Halves?

Celebrating National Tree Week, March 5th – 12th. Part 4

단풍나무   Danpung na mu   Acer palmatum

This  Acer palmatum “Koreanum”, from Korea (planted 1937), seems to be at odds with itself, each half of the tree growing in the opposite direction. The smooth bare trunks look like limbs reaching away from each other. In one way it looks like a giant bonsai tree and one can see why Acer is a popular choice for these Japanese miniatures. 

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Acer palmatum “Koreanum ” at Fota

This is a decidous tree so it looks very bare at the moment. It’s a green leaf variety of Japanese Maple which is indigenous to South Korea. In the Autumn, like all Acers the colours are orange and red, when the tree puts on a good show. 

Acers have been cultivated for centuries in Japan and around the world since the eighteen hundreds. A Swedish doctor-botanist Carl Peter Thunberg secretly brought drawings of the species out of Japan in the late C18th . He gave it the species name palmatum, because the leaves resemble hands. The Japanese had already given it a name based on the shape of hands, using words for the hands of frogs and babies – kaede and momiji.  The first specimen of the tree arrived in Europe around 1820. 

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different cultivars.  Each cultivar has different shapes, colours, growing conditions and leaf types. Even seedlings from the same parent tree can display differences in leaf size, shape, and colour. 

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Variety of leaf shapes of Acer palmarium

Acers will grow in most types of well-drained soil and like partial shade.Their root systems are not invasive and this makes them suitable for borders. This also makes them ideal for pot growing or bonsai.

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Acer palmatum bonsai

In the garden, the height of mature specimens can range from a half-metre to to 25 metres (82ft), depending on the type. According to records, this Acer had reached a height of 10m (32.9ft) by 1984. Acers can have multiple trunks joined close to the ground. This specimen’s trunk has obviously separated at some stage, for some reason. Perhaps the weight of each opposing trunk, with each competing to become the leader trunk. Perhaps there was a natural weakness at the crotch. Whatever the reason, it makes for an interesting tree. 

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Bark of  Acer palmatum “Koreanum” at Fota 

 

It’s now eighty years old and showing some signs of wear and tear. The bark looks weathered and rough, almost like an elephant’s  skin. 

But this tree has character. And we all love a character. 

 

 

 

 

References: 

Photo of bonsai: http://blog.ebonsai.be/les-bonsais/bonsai-d-exterieure/erable-palme-acer-palmatum

Image of Acer leaves: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acer_palmatum