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What is a Paperbark Maple?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 07 June 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A paperbark maple is a type of tree that has become quite popular due to the appearance of its namesake bark and the colors displayed by the leaves in fall. The bark of this tree is brown or reddish brown in color and tends to come off from the tree in thin layers similar in appearance to paper, hence the name of the tree. Leaves of this tree are green in color, with a shiny or silvery underside, though in the fall they change to dramatic shades of red and orange. A paperbark maple is usually fairly long living and slow growing, and naturally grows to an attractive, rounded shape.

Known as Acer griseum, the paperbark maple originally hails from several areas in China, yet has spread throughout a number of different regions and countries due to its popularity. Though slow growing, these trees can live for a fairly long time and often grow to more than 20 feet (more than 6 meters) in height. They are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves each year, though they are usually one of the last trees to change color and usually keep their leaves longer into winter. Once the leaves of a paperbark maple do change, however, they are striking in color and typically range between various shades of bright red and orange.

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The paperbark maple gets its name from the unusual bark found on the main trunk of the tree. This bark is usually brown or reddish brown in color and will peel away from the trunk in thin curls of bark. While this can be removed, it will naturally tend to curl and the tree will look as though it has been pieced together from hundreds of curling strips of paper. The trunk will often have multiple stems and the interior of the top of tree is quite branchy. A paperbark maple will usually grow into a natural rounded shape at the top, so these trees do not require much grooming to look beautiful.

While a paperbark maple can withstand cold weather, it is not drought resistant and will not typically do well in regions of low rainfall. They do require a good amount of watering, though they should be planted in a place with sufficient drainage to avoid over watering. The fallen leaves from a paperbark maple can be used in making mulch, and the base of the tree should be surrounded with mulch in order to regulate the temperature of the base and roots. They do well in full and partial sun, and though they do have flowers, they are typically small and used only for pollination.

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