Marvelous Mutant Maples

One of the first lessons I learned in horticulture was that leaves are one of the most unreliable features to identify a plant. For any particular species, cultivars can vary greatly when it comes to leaf shape. Another lesson learned was that the longer and more often a plant is cultivated, the greater the number of mutations and cultivars. The perfect example for each of these lessons is the Japanese maple, Acer palmatum. Japanese maple has been cultivated for centuries, and there are hundreds of cultivars. The leaf variation is simply marvelous. Most often these new plants originate as stem mutations that have been discovered, propagated and named, while others are discovered from chance seedlings and intentional breeding efforts. 

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'
One of the more commonly grown Acer palmatum cultivars in the nursery business is a hardy selection called 'Bloodgood'. Its leaves are similar to your typical Japanese maple found in nature with the exception of reddish-purple coloration instead of green. But Japanese gardeners, nurserymen and collectors have found numerous other leaf mutations, and it appears that this plant has no limits when it comes to sporting new cultivars. Here is just a small sampling of cultivars I've seen in my travels over the last year.

Acer palmatum 'Crimson Queen'

Acer palmatum 'Felice'

Acer palmatum 'Fior d'Arancio'

Acer palmatum 'Shinedeshojo'

Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'

Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'

Acer palmatum 'Pung Kil'

Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost'

Acer palmatum 'Ryu Sei'

Acer palmatum 'Seiryu'

Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

Acer palmatum 'Taylor'

Acer palmatum 'Ukigumo'

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