Plant Collector: Acer Senkaki or A. 'Sango-kaku'

Acer Senkaki, as it is commonly referred to in NZ

Acer Senkaki, as it is commonly referred to in NZ

These vibrant red branches belong to what is commonly known as Acer Senkaki, or the coral-bark maple. I will go with Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society’s note that in fact, the correct name is Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Sango-kaku’. I wonder if Senkaki is the anglicising of Sango-kaku? The RHS gave it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

This is one of the Japanese maples with finely cut leaves (which explains the dissectum bit of the name), in five lobes or fingers (hence palmatum). The leaves are pale green tones throughout most of the season, colouring to gold in autumn. However, mostly one grows it for the glorious winter bark. It is a tree, albeit a smallish one. Over time it will get maybe five metres high by three metres wide.

I photographed this specimen in a country garden, Puketarata, where it stands as a splendid feature all on its own on a hillside, so it is able to viewed in its entirety. It really lit up a bleak winter Sunday afternoon.

Most maples need to be out of the blast of winds because their foliage is soft and relatively fragile. If the roots dry out over summer, the plant shows stress by burnt edges to its leaves. So positions which are well sheltered and moist all year round without getting waterlogged will give the best results. Grown well, the Japanese maples are lush and lacy in appearance and give superb autumn colour.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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