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The perfect Japanese maple?

Katie Price
25 October 2011
Blog team: 
The trees in the Woodland Garden provide shade for us to grow a range of woodland plants and bulbs, but they also add their own colour at this time of year. The Japanese maple, Acer palmatum 'Sangokaku', is one of the best.

Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’, or the coral-barked maple, is a marvellous small tree for a woodland garden, with interest for every season. Here in the Woodland Garden, which surrounds the Temple of Aeolus at Kew, we have three specimens north of the Temple Mound. Right now they are awash with autumn colour – their small, deeply divided leaves range from butter yellow, through green and orange, to fiery red.


Autumn colour of Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’ (Image: Richard Wilford)


This year’s autumn colour is different from normal –  a largely uniform buttery yellow, with almost no red or deep orange. I guess this is an indicator of the abnormally warm, dry weather we had during early October.


Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’, showing wonderful yellow hues (Image: Richard Wilford)


One of hundreds of named cultivars of the Japanese maple, the common name of "coral bark maple" celebrates the wonderful spring display. The young shoots and stems are bright coral-red, and before the leaves emerge the tree develops a pink halo. You can also see this bright red colouration on the petioles of the autumn leaves.


The leaves of Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’, showing their bright red petioles


The newly emerged leaves have a dainty pink flush, before becoming a vibrant lime green for the rest of the season, but it is in autumn that this wonderful tree steps into the limelight.


Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’


What more can I say? It’s perfect.

- Katie -

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