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. 

Medicinal Garden – early artistic inspirations


clear spikes on blue fabric lo res

During recent musings on the hairy structure of the sage plant I was reminded of some early experiments I completed with transparent piped silicone.

oj & clear spiky blob on blue fabric lo res

This led me to doing another few spiky experiments (see images above).

I also decided to add some spiky silicone ‘hairs’ to an unrelated experimental piece that I have been working on.  (See the images below).

There were some interesting results from these tests so this is something that I will definitely look into further in the development of this piece.

The other thought that came to me while thinking of the work to be placed in or near the medicinal garden is that I would like to incorporate a more tactile element into this work. I hope that the piece itself or a sample of it will be accessible to the public to touch.

More artistic musing on the sage plant to follow.

Understanding Biomaterials

La Paz Group

shutterstock_90501193 Source:

Bio-based materials are becoming more mainstream and according to Duke University’s Center for Sustainability & Commerce, over $400 billion worth of conventional manufacturing products are produced each year using biomass, which in many cases are more sustainable than older alternatives. Nonetheless, bio-based alternatives have yet to reach scale due to traditional industry adhering to classic chemistry.

This is beginning to change, as breakthroughs in bio-based materials engineering reach a tipping point. Collective understanding of how microbes work is, for the first time, allowing us to make chemicals in a safer and more environmentally friendly way. It is possible for us to engineer microbes to have specific functions, including a variety of sustainability applications.

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