Acer palmatum
Japanese maple

Sapindaceae (soapberry family)
Japan, Korea
Acer palmatum leaves and samaras. From Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell

A most attractive, small deciduous tree with good autumn and spring color. The delicate, deeply dissected leaves are 2 to 3 inches across and have five or more lobes with more or less fancy margins. The flowers are purple and the ¾-inch keys have widely spread wings. The Japanese maple is available in dozens and dozens of varieties with different leaf shapes, color, and habit, and ranges from tree size to small tub subjects. In Japan, where the tree is known as Takao maple, there are hundreds of named forms resulting from the close attention it has received, and deserved, from man since unrecorded time.

Children may enjoy picking up the fallen leaves and watching the variety of ways in which they sail to the ground. Before suggesting this experiment you might look at the leaves that have already fallen (which lie mostly the same side up) and ask whether the kids can suggest how they fall.

On campus, seedlings volunteer under moist conditions. There is a pair at the entry to the passageway between Memorial Church and Building 60, and another a little further in. Examples of the ‘Sango Kaku’ variety can be seen at the northwest and southwest of the Bing Wing of Green Library.

Name derivation: Acer – Latin for maple; palmatum – hand-like (the leaves).

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. Family name updated from Aceraceae to Sapindaceae Oct 2017 (SP).