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Paperbark Maple

Acer griseum

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Paperback maple
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Acer griseum is commonly known as the Paperbark maple and was first introduced into England in 1901 by legendary plant hunter Ernest Henry Wilson, having been brought back to Europe from his very first expedition to China.

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Through his career, Wilson was responsible for introducing an extensive range of around 2000 Asian plant species to the West, and to this day, some sixty still bear his name - Wilsonii.

Like many other plant hunters at the time, Wilson received sponsorship for his expeditions from Harry Veitch of Veitch Nurseries. Veitch's were by far the largest and most prominent group of family-run plant nurseries in Europe during the 19th century.

The Paperbark maple is a small, slow-growing, deciduous tree, being native to central China. It is found in the provinces of Gansu, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Sichuan, at altitudes of between 1,500 – 2,000 m.

As its name suggests, the tree has translucent papery bark, which peels away from the trunk as it matures. The deep bronze colour of the bark alone would make this a splendid tree for autumn colour, but the leaves also turn a rich flame red, glowing brightly as if on fire in the late autumn light.

The leaves are distinctly unusual for a maple, being trifoliate or divided into three parts. Unlike the majority of other maple varieties, this tree does not have a defined ‘leader’ or leading branch, tending instead to break lower down, further enhancing the image of flames.

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All photography copyright © Andrea Jones
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