History of Japanese Maples and
Value as a Landscaping Tree
When Swedish doctor-botanist Carl Thunberg was privileged to travel in the mysterious land of Japan late in the eighteenth century, he secreted out
drawings of a small tree that would eventually become synonymous with the high art of oriental gardens. The first specimen of the tree reached
England in 1820 and was named Acer palmatum after the hand like shape of its leaves. This would hardly surprise the Japanese who for centuries
referred to their group of maples as kaede and momiji, references to the 'hands' of frogs and babies, respectively.
For centuries Japanese horticulturalists have developed cultivars of maples found in their country and nearby Korea and China.
Today there are hundreds of Japanese Maples on the market, and Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum' (meaning "dark purple") is one of the most popular.
Of all its close kin, this Japanese red maple is not only a sensation because of its brilliant fall color, but also because of the hues of red it
lends to the landscape in spring and often throughout the summer. As a bonus, it happens to be one of the most cold-hardy of its group.
In an attempt to catch the ethereal spirit of Japanese maples, descriptions are used such as 'tone poem', 'artistic' and 'aristocratic.'
In color and form, these little trees are cornerstones of Japanese gardening. Still, they can add grace to any small parcel of land whether it is
a front yard in Mid-America or a park in New England. Japanese red maples in general offer splendid choices to the discerning landscaper.