The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Prized Tree Gets a New Name

My favorite maple (AA#124-67) at the Arnold Arboretum

Once Acer maximowiczianum x griseum now Acer maximowiczianum

An Acer griseum specimen at the Arnold Arboretum

Acer griseum x 'Gingerbread' in my garden

On Sunday, I took a drawing class at the Eliot School in Jamaica Plain, MA. The class started at 1:30 PM and that gave me an opportunity to visit the Arnold Arboretum which is located about three blocks away from the school. I spent many hours in the late 90's searching for and studying interesting trees and shrubs that I hoped to use in my garden. One of the most beautiful trees that I discovered was called Acer maximowiczianum x griseum, hybrid of the paperbark and nikko maples. In June, 1998, I made a note in my garden journal describing this tree, accession #124-67, which was acquired by the Arboretum, as a seed, in 1967. Several months later, I found a cross of these two maples, a cultivar called Acer griseum x 'Gingerbread' and planted it in my garden near the terrace.

I was surprised, when I located the tree again on Sunday, to see it labeled as a pure nikko maple, Acer maximowiczianum. When I returned home, I confirmed that this was indeed my beloved tree but with a new name. Monday, I called the Arnold Arboretum and the puzzle was solved by Kyle Port, the Plant Records Manager. After conferring with Arboretum Curator, Kyle reported that "AA#124-67, has been determined to be Acer maximowiczianum by three different researchers/plantsmen in 1986, 1987, 1999. That said, one individual in 1988 applied the hybrid name A. maximowiczianum x griseum. The weighted evidence suggests the current name (A. maximowiczianum) applied to the Acer in question is correct. Determinations are ultimately hypotheses so perhaps the name applied to the Acer in question will change yet again!?"

Mystery solved. But for me, that tree will always be Acer maximowiczianum x griseum.


  1. I dream to visit once in my life the Arnold Arboretum! In my book about Acer, I read that A. maximowiczianum is less beautifull than A. griseum and Acer triflorum(but it doesn't say any word about A. griseum 'Gingerbread'!). What do you think about that ?

  2. Sophie,
    I feel very fortunate to be within driving distance of the Arnold Arboretum. I agree that Acer maximowiczianum is less beautiful than A. griseum and A. triflorum, that is why I was surprised that #124-67 was A.maximowiczianum and not a cross of A. griseum and A. maximowiczianum. The lovely red bark makes me believe that it is part A. griseum. If you are interested, I have several posts about A. triflorum which I also have in my garden.Thanks for your comment!!

  3. Great post. I have found the nomenclature of plants to be more fluid than I originally thought. I guess some plants don't fit into the boxes we build for them. This looks like a nice tree that I am unfamiliar with. The Arnold has the largest specimen of Acer griseum in the US. We use that tree when we can get it.

  4. DGP,
    Thanks for commenting. There is an ancient specimen of Acer griseum in the Explorers Garden on top of Bussey Hill, collected in 1907, that I searched out after reading about it in Eck and Winterrowd's book A Year at North Hill. It may not be the largest specimen, but it is the oldest outside of China. You might try to find 'Gingerbread' because it is hardier and grows faster than griseum with a very similar effect. I got mine at Twombly Nursery in Monroe, CT in 1998.I noticed Forestfarm has it in online for mail order. Mine grew quite quickly; might be worth giving a try.



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