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A deciduous tree to 12 m in the wild. Bark dark green, smooth, eventually turning pale brown with age. Branchlets glabrous, slender, greenish, faintly striped white. Buds stipitate, ovoid, with 2 pairs of valvate scales. Leaves chartaceous, ovate to triangular-ovate, 6–11 × 4–9 cm, base subcordate to cordate, 5-lobed, central lobe triangular ovate to ovate, apex caudate-acuminate, lateral lobes ovate, basal lobes smaller, ovate, margins double-serrate and lobulate, upper surface dark green, lower surface paler, with rusty pubescence in vein axils at first, soon glabrous; petiole grooved, 5–7 cm long, green to red; autumn colours yellow to red. Inflorescence terminal, racemose, pendulous, 10–15 flowered, ~5 cm long. Flowers yellowish-green, 5-merous, pedicels 0.3–0.6 cm long, sepals elliptic to ovate-oblong, ~0.3 cm long, petals obovate to ovate-oblong, ~3.5 cm long, stamens 8, inserted outside the nectar disc. Samaras 1.8–2.5 cm long, wings spreading obtusely. Flowering in May, fruiting in October. Xu et al. (2008).
Distribution China southern Gansu, north eastern Guangxi, Guizhou, western Henan, western Hubei, Hunan, southern Qinghai, southern Shaanxi, southern Shanxi, Sichuan
Habitat Mixed forests and valleys between 1800 and 2500 m.
USDA Hardiness Zone 6-7
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Acer maximowiczii was originally introduced by Ernest Wilson under various numbers including W 4100 and W 4427, the former as A. laxiflorum from northwestern Sichuan and still represented in some specialist collections, for example at Dawyck Botanic Garden in Scotland, the latter from western Hubei (Bean 1976a). More recent introductions to the United Kingdom include SICH 1765 from Daba Shan, Sichuan, in 1996. In the Valley Gardens, Windsor Great Park, it grows as a leggy tree with arching branches and yellow autumn colour adjacent to the Plunkett Memorial temple. Most introductions of the species to western cultivation have been made by North American collectors and particularly by those of the North America-China Plant Exploration Consortium, collecting under the NACPEC code. It is thus better represented in North American collections than it is in European collections at present. At the David C. Lam Asian Garden, University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, NACPEC 10-002, collected from the Niu Bei Liang National Nature Reserve, Shaanxi Province, was showing good, orange autumn colour in October 2019, where it grows beneath the native overstorey of Acer macrophyllum and Thuja plicata. NACPEC 11-066, from Tianshui, Gansu, is also represented there. SICH 1059, collected in Muli, Sichuan in 1992, is referable to A. forrestii, though is incorrectly labelled A. maximowiczii in some collections.
Treated as a species by Xu et al. (2008), its affinity to other taxa in section Macrantha is somewhat debated. It is treated as one of five subspecies of Acer pectinatum by van Gelderen et al. (1994). These authors acknowledge that many others consider it to be closer to A. tschonoskii and A. micranthum, an opinion shared by Chang & Kim (2003), who include it in their appraisal of the A. tschonoskii complex. It somewhat resembles this group, though has lobes more spreading than these species, which are further distinguished by their distinctive flowers. Meanwhile, Rushforth (1999) stated that it is closest to another Japanese species, A. crataegifolium, though this lacks basal lobes present in A. maximowiczii.