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Acer pictum Thunb.

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Genus

  • Acer
  • Sect. Platanoidea

Common Names

  • Painted Maple

Synonyms

  • A. mono Maxim.

Infraspecifics

Other species in genus

Glossary

subspecies
(subsp.) Taxonomic rank for a group of organisms showing the principal characters of a species but with significant definable morphological differentiation. A subspecies occurs in populations that can occupy a distinct geographical range or habitat.
taxon
(pl. taxa) Group of organisms sharing the same taxonomic rank (family genus species infraspecific variety).

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This relatively well-known species was described by Bean (B211, S47) and Krüssmann (K82) under the name Acer mono. After considerable debate as to the nomenclature of this taxon, Ohashi (1993b) demonstrated that A. pictum is the correct name, and he recognised 11 subspecies with numerous forms. The following two taxa appear to be distinct and have been recently introduced, but it is possible that others of Ohashi’s rather poorly differentiated subspecies are present in cultivation.

macropterum (W.P. Fang) H. Ohashi

Subsp. macropterum has three- to five-lobed leaves that are pubescent beneath. The samaras are 3–4 cm long with wings spreading horizontally. Xu et al. 2008. Distribution CHINA: southeast Gansu, western Sichuan, southeast Xizang, Yunnan. Habitat Mixed forests between 1900 and 3300 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6–7. Conservation status Not evaluated.

The only known introduction to cultivation of this taxon was a collection of seed under the number SICH 1107 made at c.2660 m near Muli, Yunnan, by the Sichuan Expedition of 1992. The parent tree was a fine 15 m with a trunk of 90 cm dbh, growing in mixed deciduous forest. Seedlings did not become established at Kew, and although one grew at Quarryhill for 12 years this has now been killed by Armillaria (H. Higson, pers. comm. 2007). No others have been traced.

okamotoanum (Nakai) H. Ohashi

This subspecies has five- to seven-lobed leaves, 12–15 cm across with entire margins, and samaras 3.5–4.5 cm long with converging wings. Van Gelderen et al. 1994. Distribution SOUTH KOREA: Ullung-do. Habitat Forest remnants. USDA Hardiness Zone 6–7. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration NT99, NT100.

Rarity has added piquancy to the interest in this taxon, but fortunately it would seem that the report of only 15 surviving specimens (van Gelderen et al. 1994) is an underestimate, as Kirkham & Flanagan (2005) record it as a principal constituent of woodland they visited in South Korea in 1989. There, on the island of Ullung-do, it is a large tree up to 20 m tall, with wide-spreading branches. Seed from this expedition (KFBX 168) has given rise to a very vigorous specimen at Kew, 8 m tall in 2005 (Flanagan & Kirkham 2005), but there are several other large specimens in the United Kingdom as well, including one that was 9 m tall when measured by Owen Johnson for TROBI in 2003, at Batsford Park, Gloucestershire, and one that has reached 10 m at Hergest Croft (planted in 1985). The Hergest Croft tree is a fine individual with ascending branches, although it is prone to depredations by squirrels. Another large specimen (9–10 m) grows at Chevithorne Barton in Devon. Both of the latter trees are derived from a collection made in 1982 by James Harris and Joe Witt, from which only two seeds germinated (J. Harris, pers. comm. 2006). Viable seed is now produced in cultivation. In North America it is growing at the Arnold Arboretum and elsewhere. At the David C. Lam Asian Garden, a 12 m tall tree, grown from seed collected by Ferris Miller in 1980, has an 18 m spread of branches; Peter Wharton commented that it is ‘very, very vigorous’ (pers. comm. 2007). It is not fully hardy in Poland (P. Banaszczak, pers. comm. 2007).

The leaves of all the A. pictum subsp. okamotoanum seen have had an elegant poise with upturned lobe tips, enhanced by a slightly undulate margin. They emerge light red and turn a good yellow in autumn. It grows very well on alkaline soils (J. Harris, pers. comm. 2007).

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