Arboretum: Acer ginnala, Amur maple
When it comes to fall color, very few trees can top our native sugar maple, Acer saccharum. Another maple that comes close is the Amur maple, or Acer ginnala. These trees are native to central and northern China, Manchuria and Japan, and are a common maple in cultivation around the world.
A small, multi-stem tree with a rounded outline, the Amur maple grows only about 15 to 20 feet tall and can take heavy pruning. It, therefore, can thrive in the tight growing quarters of a small front lawn or, as at Haverford College, in parking lot island beds. These maples also can take a range of soil conditions, are easy to transplant and are very cold hardy.
Their small, three-lobed leaves have an elongated center tip. The fresh green color of summer turns to vivid red in the fall, especially if the tree is in a full sun location. In addition to the leaf shape, a clue to the tree’s identification is the winged fruits, or samaras, with the “wings” hanging parallel. It also is the earliest maple to leaf out in spring.
Acer ginnala is a good tree for a small patio or even a large container. Groups of these trees can make quite an attractive impact if planted as in the college parking lot or against the blank wall of a large building.