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This species was described briefly by Bean (B237), who also described A. tetramerum Pax, now synonymous with A. stachyophyllum. See also Krüssmann (K107).
Subsp. betulifolium is said to be a multistemmed tree or shrub that suckers freely from the base once established, unlike subsp. stachyophyllum which, while multistemmed, does not produce suckers (van Gelderen et al. 1994, van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999), but this seems not to be a very reliable distinction (P. Gregory, L. Banks, pers. comms. 2007). The leaves of subsp. betulifolium (3–5 × 2–3 cm) are somewhat smaller than those of subsp. stachyophyllum (4–8 × 3–5 cm). Van Gelderen et al. 1994, van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999, Xu et al. 2008. Distribution CHINA: southern Gansu, western Henan, western Hubei, Ningxia, southern Shaanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan; MYANMAR. Habitat Alpine forests between 1400 and 3300 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6–7. Conservation status Not evaluated.
Accounts of the early introductions of Acer stachyophyllum and its varieties are somewhat confused by the former use of the name A. tetramerum. It seems, however, that it was first introduced by Ernest Wilson (Wilson 4102) from Sichuan in 1910, with later collections by George Forrest (Bean 1976a). There are numerous mature specimens from these early collections in British and Irish arboreta, the largest recorded being 15.5 m at Hergest Croft in 1995 (TROBI), an old tree planted prior to 1930 and possibly an original Wilson collection (L. Banks, pers. comm. 2007). A large plant (perhaps best described as a thicket) of this taxon also grows in the Esveld Aceretum in Boskoop, from where it has been abundantly propagated and distributed. It has also been collected in Sichuan on several occasions through the SICH expeditions between 1988 and 2003 (for example, SICH 207, 1119, 1457, 1740, 2310), at altitudes between 1580 and 3050 m. It is frequently a component of regenerating or secondary forest. Although a snakebark, this is not one of the more attractive members of the group, and with its suckering habit needs ample space to develop. The mid-green leaves turn yellow in autumn.