Atropurpureum Japanese Maple Trees – Acer Palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’
The Acer Palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’, commonly known as the Atropurpureum Japanese Maple, is a truly enchanting tree species native to the landscapes of Japan, North and South Korea, and China, but over time has made its way into gardens across the world, including those of the United Kingdom.
Description and Characteristics
Atropurpureum Japanese Maples are a standout species, their distinction lying in their colour and form. The tree is characterized by its five to seven-lobed leaves, which possess an almost palmate or hand-like structure. The leaves come to life in a rich, deep purple hue in the spring, then darken to a purplish-red throughout the summer, before finally burning into a fiery crimson as autumn descends, adding a striking splash of colour to any British garden. Unlike many native British trees, such as the English Oak or the Silver Birch, which are predominantly green, the Atropurpureum offers a vibrant and dynamic colour palette that changes with the seasons.
This deciduous tree grows in a pleasingly rounded, dome-like habit, making it an excellent specimen tree and focal point in garden designs. The layered branching pattern adds an element of visual depth and a stunning silhouette in the winter months.
In terms of size, the Atropurpureum Japanese Maple is relatively small to medium. It typically reaches heights of about 6 to 10 meters (20-30 feet) at maturity, with a similar spread, making it suitable for smaller gardens or spaces where larger trees might not fit. The growth rate is slow, usually less than 30cm per year, requiring patience but rewarding with a spectacular display as it matures.
Japanese Maples have a life expectancy of 60-100 years, with some even reaching 200 years if grown in optimal conditions. One of the tallest known Atropurpureum Japanese Maples stands at around 12 meters, located in the Kew Gardens, London.
Flowering, Berries, and Reproduction
During the spring, the Atropurpureum Japanese Maple displays modest but beautiful flowers that bloom in small corymbs of five to ten. These delicate blossoms are purple or red, contributing to the tree’s overall colour spectacle.
Following the spring bloom, the tree produces winged samaras – these are the fruit or “berries” of the maple. Starting green and maturing to a more reddish colour, these winged seeds contribute to the tree’s autumn allure and play a key role in its reproduction. The samaras are carried by the wind to new locations where they have the chance to germinate and grow into a new tree.
Benefits to Wildlife
Although they’re not native, Atropurpureum Japanese Maples provide many benefits to British wildlife. Their seeds offer a food source for birds and small mammals, while their dense canopy provides shelter and nesting opportunities. The tree’s flowers are a nectar source for pollinators, particularly bees, supporting local biodiversity.
Ideal for British Gardens
These trees thrive in the temperate British climate, preferring a sheltered spot in partial shade, making them ideal for British garden designs. They can also handle full sun, provided the soil is well-drained and consistently moist. Their tolerance for various light conditions and soil types, along with their spectacular aesthetic appeal, make them a favoured choice for garden enthusiasts looking to add a touch of Eastern elegance to their landscapes.
Distribution in the UK
While they are not native to the UK, Atropurpureum Japanese Maples are commonly found in domestic gardens, public parks, and botanical gardens. They are particularly popular in regions like the South of England, which boasts a temperate climate that these maples favor. London’s Kew Gardens, RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, and Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire are all known for their remarkable displays of these maples, particularly during the fall when their leaves transform into a breathtaking array of colours.
In conclusion, the Atropurpureum Japanese Maple offers a stunning blend of vibrant, season-changing colours, manageable growth size, and benefits to local wildlife. With a touch of patience and the right care, this tree can become a stunning focal point of any British garden, large or small.