Acer capillipes, commonly known as the Snakebark Maple or Red Snake Maple, is a species of maple tree known for its distinctive bark and attractive foliage. Acer capillipes is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree that typically grows to a height of 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) with a similar spread. It has an upright, vase-shaped form with spreading branches. The most notable feature of this tree is its unique bark. The young bark is smooth and greenish grey, but as the tree matures, it develops striking vertical, dark green to reddish-brown stripes that resemble snake-like patterns. This distinctive bark adds visual interest and makes the Snakebark Maple easily identifiable, even in winter when the leaves have fallen.
The leaves of Acer capillipes are palmate, meaning they are shaped like a hand with lobes radiating from the central point. The leaves are medium-sized, typically about 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) long and are green in colour. In the autumn, the foliage of the Snakebark Maple turns shades of yellow, orange, and red, creating a beautiful display of autumnal colours.
Acer capillipes is native to mountainous regions of Japan and China. It is well-suited to a variety of climates and can thrive in even the harshest of UK’s winters. This species prefers moist, well-drained soils but can tolerate a range of soil types, including sandy and loamy soils. Snakebark Maple grows best in partial shade to full sun, although it can benefit from some protection from intense afternoon sun in hotter seasons.
Snakebark Maple is highly valued for its ornamental qualities. Its unique bark patterns make it an attractive focal point in gardens, parks, and landscapes. The interesting bark provides year-round visual interest, while the vibrant leaf colours add seasonal charm. Due to its smaller size, it is suitable for urban and suburban gardens, smaller gardens, or as an understory tree in larger landscapes.
Acer capillipes generally don’t require a lot of maintenance. The tree benefits from regular watering, particularly during dry periods, to ensure proper establishment and growth. Mulching around the base of the tree helps retain moisture and suppress weed growth. Pruning is minimal and primarily involves removing dead, damaged, or crossing branches. Regular inspections for common pests and diseases are recommended to address any issues promptly.