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A deciduous tree, said to become 50 ft high in Japan, but in cultivation in this country scarcely more than half that height; branchlets dark, glabrous. Leaves oblong, usually from 3 to 4 in. long, 11⁄4 to 2 in. wide, not lobed, doubly toothed, densely covered when young, especially on the veins, with grey silky hairs, but becoming almost glabrous by autumn; veins parallel as in the hornbeam, in about twenty pairs; stalks from 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. long. Flowers green, borne on long slender stalks in a short umbel or raceme. Fruit with wings about 1⁄2 in. long, 1⁄4 in. wide, the wings decurved in the shape of a bow.
Native of Japan; introduced in 1879 by Maries for Messrs Veitch. The resemblance the leaves bear to those of the hornbeam make this perhaps the most easily distinguished of maples. From the hornbeam their opposite arrangement, of course, at once distinguishes it even in the absence of fruit. This maple is quite hardy, and there was in 1913 a fine specimen then about 20 ft high in the Coombe Wood nursery – the largest in Britain at that time. Even today there are few specimens of that size. The best recorded is at Coles, Privett, Hants, which is 30 ft high. There are smaller examples at Kew, Westonbirt, and other collections.
specimens: Westonbirt, Glos., Main Avenue, 36 × 3 ft at 3 ft (1981); Bodnant, Gwyn., 33 × 11⁄2 ft (1981).
The hornbeam maple is really more of a large shrub than a tree. Its handsome foliage turns yellow in autumn.