Lust List: Paperbark Maple

My ever-unrequited love affair with paperbark maple (Acer griseum) intensifies when seeing it in its fall regalia.

Hates drought, they say. Well with the somewhat hefty price of this tree, that makes it too risky for my garden, sad to say. That doesn’t mean I can’t fantasize.

Paperbark maple is one of the perfect (*or almost perfect) small trees. Dainty, three-lobed maple leaves which are a nice mid green in summer turn a rich, rusty red in fall. And the bark! It peels like strips of cinnamon-coloured tissue paper. Place it where you can enjoy the trunk silhouetted by the light, and the exfoliating bark becomes a halo of illumination – a lovely feature in all seasons.

Its *almost-perfection is related to the branching, which in some specimens can occasionally become muddled and ungainly. The beauty of this tree tends towards complexion rather than bone structure.

I wish I could be like you, and have one of these in my yard… please plant one and enjoy it for me. I’ll thank you for it. Really.

The last foliage on one of a trio of paperbark maples at the Toronto Botanical Garden. The blue glass background sets off the leaf colour nicely.

A little closer look at those leaves. Be still, my heart.


  1. I love the bark! We have a tree that has paper white bark that peels off and looks very similar. It is the Palo Blanco (Acacia willardiana), which means "White Stick" in Spanish.

    I am glad that you are able to enjoy the one in the park.

  2. I was lucky enough to be able to visit Kew Gardens last week. Most memorable was an Acer griseum back-lit by the low autumn sky. The peeling bark just glowed like rubies.

  3. Sailsmart, I know they have them at Plant World on Eglinton. It's likely that a large nursery such as Connon would carry it, too. These are both well within your 200 km limit!

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