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Shrub or tree 5–10 m. Branchlets purple to brown, slender and glabrous. Leaves deciduous, papery or membranous, 4–13 × 4–14 cm, palmately seven-lobed to nine-lobed, divided to one-quarter or one-third of the length, shiny green on both surfaces, largely glabrous, but with some silky hairs below, margins irregularly serrate, apex caudate to acuminate; petiole 4–5 cm long, glabrous; autumn colour red. Inflorescence terminal, corymbose with four to eight flowers. Flowers 5-merous, staminate or hermaphrodite; sepals ovate-oblong, purple, petals oblong to obovate, stamens eight, inserted outside the nectar disc. Samaras 2.2–6 cm long, yellowish green, wings spreading horizontally or obtusely. Flowering May, fruiting September (China). Van Gelderen et al. 1994, Xu et al. 2008. Distribution CHINA: Anhui, southern Gansu, Henan, western Hubei, southern Shaanxi, Shanxi, Sichuan, Zhejiang. Habitat Forests between 700 and 2000 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 5. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration NT71. Cross-reference K100. Taxonomic note Acer robustum Pax is a later homonym of A. robustum Opiz and must be replaced by the unfamiliar A. ceriferum (Xu et al. 2008).
Although Acer ceriferum was collected by Wilson in 1907 (no. 339), the oldest known specimen in cultivation seems to be a 35-year-old tree at Rogów, grown from Beijing Botanical Garden seed. Although hardy in these Zone 6 conditions it is very slow-growing (4 m) and has never flowered (Tumilowicz 2002). More recently it has become commercially available both in Europe and in North America. Plants are young and in consequence all rather small, but gardeners are likely to find this an interesting addition to the A. palmatum group. In the United Kingdom the best is probably a nice specimen at Blagdon (P. Gregory, pers. comm. 2007). The species differs from A. palmatum in having silky hairs on the undersides of its leaves, and more conspicuously in its much larger samaras. The leaves turn a purplish red in autumn, and flush yellowish red in spring.