Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)

West door to Old Main Map

Popular for their delicate leaves and beautiful colors. Native to the Far East, they were introduced in the early 19th century where they have thrived, multiplied, evolved - and conquered. In Bellingham, they are rivaled in number only by the deodar cedar, copper beech and, of course, our native trees.

Japanese maple has several attributes that help establish its popularity; it takes up less room than most trees, it is easy to grow (in moist, mild climates), and it has interesting, even beautiful, foliage. Leaves of Japanese maples are small and highly "cut"; indeed, several cultivars (e.g., "Ornatum", "Dissectum") have such thin, ragged leaves as to suggest pruning by an enraged cat. Purple, red, yellow and green leaves are known; many provide a glowing red-purple display in fall.

Acer palmatum may be the most varied tree in existence. North American Landscape Trees lists and describes over 100 cultivars. Entire books have been devoted to the Japanese maple. Four examples are shown here; two of a green variety near the west door to Old Main, and two purple ones at the base of the stairs. More Japanese maples recently were placed in large stone "planters" in front of SMATE. Stay alert and you will see more on campus, many more. Enough already.