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TREES & plants

Fullmoon maple

Fall color of fullmoon maple.

Fullmoon maple is very similar in appearance to the true Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). It varies in size by cultivar and can be a large shrub or a small tree. The divided foliage, small, dangling purple flowers and fall color make this a multi-season tree.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name: 
Acer japonicum
All Common Names: 
fullmoon maple, full-moon maple, downy Japanese maple
Family (English): 
Soapberry (formerly Maple)
Family (Botanic): 
Sapindaceae (formerly Aceraceae)
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Patio/sidewalk, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet), 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet), 
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet), 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
Mature Height: 
20-30 feet
Mature Width: 
20-40 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Prefers
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter, 
  • Mid winter, 
  • Late winter, 
  • Late spring, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Purple, 
  • Red
Shape or Form: 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
Wildlife: 
  • Insect pollinators
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Do not prune maples in spring as they are 'bleeders'.
Avoid very hot, dry sites.  Avoid windy sites in winter.

Disease, pests, and problems

Frost damage can occur to leaves as they emerge in spring.
Verticillium wilt is a potential problems for maples.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Japan, China and Korea.  This is an understory species.

Bark color and texture 

On the main trunk, the bark is smooth gray.  The twigs are green or red and shiny.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Leaves in pairs (opposite), simple, rounded in outline with 7 to 11 lobes, 3-6 inches wide and long.  Leaf margins are irregularly toothed.
Leaves are medium green in summer, changing to red and yellow in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers are small and reddish purple.  Not very showy.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruits are pairs of winged seeds (samaras), often tinged with red or purple.

Cultivars and their differences

Fern-leaved fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium'):  This small cultivar (8-10 feet high) has deeply dissected foliage and excellent red fall color.

Grape-leaved fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum 'Vitifolium'): Foliage resembles grape leaves; fall color is red, orange and yellow; 20 feet high.

Green cascade fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum 'Green Cascade'):  A shrub-like cultivar (6 feet high) with a weeping form and deeply dissected green leaves that turn red in fall.

Acer japonicum or Fullmoon maple