top of page

Featured Plant

Acer palmatum


Scientific Name: Acer palmatum 'Sangokaku'

Common Name: Japanese Coral Bark Maple

Family: Sapindaceae

Plant Type: Tree

Environment: In the Bay Area, full sun combined with colder temperatures will bring out the best bark color. In warmer climates, full sun can scorch the leaves, so morning light is best; Avoid a windy spot; can handle clay or sandy soil as long as there is good drainage.

Bloom: Flowers are small, reddish and are followed by samara (winged fruits). This maple will give brilliant color and texture almost year-round, with winter bark, new emerging spring leaves and fall color all spectacular.

Uses: Makes a great tree for landscaping due to its size (25' x 20') and as an accent tree due to its foliage and bark; can be grown in a container usually topping out at 6-10'.

Other: The samara (winged fruits) are shaped to carry the seed on the wind away from the parent tree. This cultivar used to be known by many as 'Senkaki' which is now a synonym; also known under the names 'Cinnabarinum', 'Cinnabar Wood Maple,' 'Corallinum' and 'Coral Bark Maple'.Sangokaku also can be translated to 'coral pillar' with the pillars being the upright, coral-colored branches which glow against the snow and the gray-browns of winter. In 1993, the Royal Horticultural Society gave this maple the Award of Garden Merit.



Acer palmatum

The winter scene in the Botanical Garden is enhanced with the brilliant scarlet bark of a Japanese maple cultivar called 'Sangokaku' which translates to 'coral tower' in Japanese. After the leaves have dropped, the bark and twigs take on a coral-red tinge that grows deeper as winter advances. Many maples tend to have a blush of red along their petioles or leaf stems, but nothing equals the intensity of color in the bark and branches as that of 'Sangokaku'. In spring the new leaves are a light green, and make a striking contrast against the coral bark which is then beginning to fade to the normal shade of pale brown. In fall, the leaves turn gold, drop, and by December the cycle of bark color begins again.

The leaves of Acer palmatum are delicate and palmate, dissected into 5 or 7 lobes or points. The trees tend to remain small and delicate, growing to 20' at best, making them popular for small gardens. They are native to Japan and Korea and widely cultivated in China and the rest of the world. As an ornamental tree it is extremely variable in cultivation. As a result, cultivars have been developed accentuating these variations: size of leaf, color of bark (like Sangokaku), leaves and growth habit.

Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor; text by Docent Kathy McNeil; profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler


bottom of page