If trying to describe a Coral bark maple, or Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku', one may run out of superlatives. This is one of the most spectacular trees grown and if one were limited to owning only one tree, this would definitely be a top-five candidate. The show starts in spring when palmate leaves emerge red, pink and green. These seven-lobed maple leaves are small and delicate and turn a bright celery green for the summer season. Then in autumn the leaves turn a bold canary yellow streaked with apricot highlights. This foliage show alone is all the reason needed to own this tree, and yet, its boldest feature doesn't emerge until autumn and winter when the bark turns a brilliant coral red. This contrasts beautifully with the golden foliage and remains bright through dreary winter when it is even more appreciated. And there is no more striking scene than a group of Coral bark maples draped in white snow. No surprise that the Royal Horticultural Society has given this tree an Award of Garden Merit.

Coral bark maple grows fast when young and eventually slows after the first five years. Ultimately it will reach 20 to 25 feet with a spread approximately 15 to 18 feet. The bark colors best when it grown in full sun though it will do well in modest shade, and in moist, well-drained soil. It also tolerates a range of soil types, including sand and heavy clay, and it is drought-tolerant once well-established. Unfortunately, it has a narrow zone of adaptability, liking neither long, hot summers nor bitter winters. It will do well across the moderate middle of the US and does well across the UK. It's also popular in New Zealand and will grow in temperate Australia. As always, a tree this wonderful is not likely to be found at the big discount nurseries. It will be more likely found at the specialty tree nursery or mail-order plant nursery.

Another distinctive maple is the Erythrocladum maple, or Acer pensylvanicum ‘Erythrocladum’.


Coral bark maple

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