Paperbark Maple, Acer griseum
Paperbark Maple is considered by plant aficionados to be a specimen tree – one that deserves focal point status in the landscape. Atypical of most simple-leaved maples, Paperbark Maple has trifoliate compound leaves that are a flat dark bluish green color in summer, then changing to bronze, russet, or red in autumn.
The small greenish yellow flowers are not very numerous and are rather insignificant appearing in spring as the new leaves emerge. Small seed samaras of 1 to 1.5 inches in length are noticeable in fall as they take on a brownish color and are not as annoying as the "whirly-bird" samaras that fall from other common maples.
By far the most significant ornamental feature of Paperbark Maple is its rich cinnamon to reddish-brown exfoliating bark. The paper thin peeling sheets of bark are evident from the trunk all the way out to the small branches and provide year round interest. A white snow backdrop provides an excellent canvas for drawing attention to the leafless but beautiful, rich, exfoliating bark in the dead of winter.
Paperbark Maple is hardy in USDA Zones 5 – 7, is adaptable to varied soils, and is native to China. Full sun is the preferred sighting in the landscape; however, it can tolerate partial shade although autumn foliage color may be less prominent. The uprightly oval to rounded medium sized tree typically matures at 20 – 30 feet in height making it easy to locate in a typical home landscape, preferably front and center.