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TREES & plants

Paper-barked maple

Attractive, peeling bark of parper-barked maple.

This attractive small- to medium-sized ornamental tree is excellent for a small area or for adding structure to a mixed perennial garden. Paper-barked maple is a great plant for four seasons: Winter and spring are highlighted with cinnamon-colored, exfoliating bark that is accentuated by light snow, while summer brings delicate leaves with a bluish cast that can turn bronze in fall. Fall color is not consistent from year to year.

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

Botanical name: 
Acer griseum
All Common Names: 
paper-barked maple, paperbark 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: 
  • Mixed border, 
  • Patio/sidewalk, 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet), 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
Mature Height: 
20-30 feet
Mature Width: 
10-30 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, 
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter, 
  • Mid winter, 
  • Late winter, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall, 
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval, 
  • Round, 
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
Wildlife: 
  • Insect pollinators
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Avoid pruning maples in spring as they are 'bleeders' and will lose large amounts of sap.
Tolerates clay soils and high pH

Disease, pests, and problems

Verticillium wilt (fungus) is a potential problem for maples.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to central China.

Bark color and texture 

Cinnamon-colored peeling bark is this tree's best feature.

Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)photo: John Hagstrom

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

The delicate foliage consists of three leaflets on a short stalk. The leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and have an opposite arrangement along the branch.
Summer leaves are dark green changing to bronze or reddish in fall.  Fall color is not consistent from year to year.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers are inconspicuous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit are winged seeds in pairs (samaras).
Seedlings are seldom a problem as most of the seed produced is not viable.

Cultivars and their differences

Fireburst™ paperbark maple (Acer griseum 'JFS KW8AGRI'):  A narrow, upright form (18 feet wide), with red fall color and exfoliating bark.

Acer griseum or Paper-barked maple