Arboretum: Acer palmatum, Japanese maple
Many cultivars of Japanese maples, Acer palmatum, are perfectly sized for the home landscape. These small, artistically branched trees grow slowly and reach 15 to 25 feet high and wide with a rounded and broad silhouette.
Acer palmatum is named for its leaf shape, palmate with five to nine sharply pointed lobes radiating fan-like from the base. Some cultivars have finely dissected leaves, the narrow segments cut nearly to the base, that give a light texture to the tree’s overall silhouette.
Hundreds and hundreds of Japanese maple cultivars have been selected, though very few are in the regular nursery trade. The deep red ‘Bloodgood’ is the most common, but a wonderful range of other trees can be found. If you choose to plant a Japanese maple, be adventurous and go beyond ‘Bloodgood.’ Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’ has green leaves, yellow fall color and coral-orange winter stems. Two specimens at Haverford College are outside Barclay Hall and by the steps behind Founders, facing Roberts Hall. For even more inspiration, walk to the Denis Asian Garden next to the Dining Center where the selection of Japanese maples ranges from yellow and green variegated leaves in summer to orange and red fall foliage, and from finely dissected to broad leaf shapes. There also are some cultivars that reach 40 feet tall and take a more upright form. On campus, check out the maple in the Coop patio and the grouping beyond the faculty pool.