Tree spotlight no.3 – Snakebark Maple

snakebark maple leaves and stripey bark

Snakebark maples are maples belonging to the taxonomic section Acer sect.Macrantha. The section includes 18–21 species, and is restricted to eastern Asia (the eastern Himalaya east to Japan) with the exception of one species in eastern North America.

The various species of snakebark maples are most easily distinguished from other maples by their distinctive bark, smooth (at least on young trees), and usually patterned with vertical dark green to greenish-brown stripes alternating with stripes of light green, pinkish or white, sometimes with a bluish tone.

Other characters include stalked buds with just one pair of scales, and flowers on arching to pendulous racemes. The samaras are small, and often numerous.

They are small deciduous trees, typically 5–15 m tall, rarely to 20 m tall, fast-growing when young but soon slowing down with age, and often short-lived; they typically occur as under-storey trees in mountain forests, often along stream-sides.


Some have good fall colour with tones of of reds and orange, while others tend toward a pale yellow which is less impressive.  All are relatively hardy compared to many other species of maples, and many are widely cultivated as ornamental trees for their bark. 


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