Friday, December 4, 2015

Acer pentaphyllum, a Rare and Unusual Maple


Generally I am not a great fan of maples, perhaps because when we were at the old house that my folks owned I had to fight with the roots of Norway maples in some of my gardens.  They were quick to grow, and steal water from herbaceous plants, and sometimes they would even grow up into pots that were set upon the ground for the summer.   I detest Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) anyway, it is an aggressive invader of our forests and is uglier than the native Sugar Maple (A. saccharum) which does have colorful fall foliage.  I also don't really want large trees around my gardens in general, the root competition is too much for most of the plants I want to grow and I'd rather grow a lot of small things in a given space than one big thing.
I did see a plant at Western Hills north of San Francisco years ago that I first thought was one of the South African sumacs but on closer inspection it turned out to be Acer pentaphyllum,  I tried a couple of small seedlings at the old house but they did not survive.  So this year I got a decent sized plant from Forest Farm and it has grown well.  It remains to be seen if it will survive the winter, as I think there is little experience growing it outside of the West Coast.  It is very rare in nature, confined to a small area in one valley in western China.  The leaves do look suspiciously like marijuana but of course the latter is not a woody plant.  It is deciduous from what I can find out, but so far it still has foliage on it but it stopped growing when fall arrived.   I think it will make a nice bush or small tree in our yard should it survive the winter.  If it does well I may let it take the place of the brittle cedars nearby.  I keep them only because they offer some shade for potted plants that sit on a wall and on the ground on landscape fabric at the base of the same wall in summer.   Otherwise the cedars are not in the best of shape, they have been cabled to keep more branches from breaking, which I assume must have been a problem before we got this house.  

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