Acer pubinerve Rehder

(Sect. Palmata, Sect. Sinensia)


A. wuyuanense W.P. Fang & Y.T. Wu

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New Trees

Tree 5–7 m. Bark dark grey, brown or purple. Branchlets pale green or purplish green, slender and glabrous. Leaves deciduous, 7–9 cm across, palmately five-lobed, lobes one-third to half of the length, dark green and largely glabrous, margins slightly serrate, apex caudate; petiole 4–5 cm long. Inflorescence paniculate to racemose, few-flowered. Flowers 5-merous, staminate or hermaphrodite; sepals purplish green, petals white, stamens 8–10, inserted outside the nectar disc. Samaras ~3 cm long, yellowish, wings spreading horizontally. Flowering April, fruiting October (China). Van Gelderen et al. 1994. Distribution CHINA: Jiangxi. Habitat Forests. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration NT103.

In North American collections as disparate as the David C. Lam Asian Garden in Vancouver and the US National Arboretum in Washington DC, Acer pubinerve (labelled A. wuyuanense) has won high praise as a beautiful small tree with great garden potential. In both these locations it is grown from seed collected by the 1988 NACPEC expedition to Huangshan, Anhui Province, China, near the Chi Guang Ge Temple at 640 m. As observed in May 2006, two specimens at the US National Arboretum had made rounded trees, approximately 2.5 m tall and equally wide. A notable feature was the abundance of pale green samaras nestling among the leaves. For Douglas Justice in Vancouver, however, it is the emerging foliage that draws attention. Memorably, he describes it as being like ‘oily, dark brown chicken feet’ (D. Justice, in Wharton et al. 2005), although his suggested English name Chocolate Maple is a more pleasing descriptor! This dark spring growth emerges from dark twigs, but becomes a rich green. In Vancouver, ‘A. wuyuanense’ has made trees 5 m tall by 3 m wide. This is evidently an exceptionally interesting species, of great value for smaller gardens, but it is not yet commercially available. Except for some young seedlings at Westonbirt (P. Gregory, pers. comm. 2007), it seems to be unknown in Europe at the present time; some trees from the Huangshan were distributed from Castle Howard by James Russell in the late 1980s, but none grow there now (T. Kirkham, pers. comm. 2007). One donated to Philippe de Spoelberch was dead by 1992 (K. Camelbeke, pers. comm. 2007).

Acer pubinerve (syn. A. wuyuanense) is forming attractive small trees in those gardens fortunate enough to possess it. This one is in the US National Arboretum. Image J. Grimshaw.



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