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Tree Campus: Japanese Maple

Tree Campus SCC is a multi-year and interdisciplinary college initiative to document, map, and celebrate the incredible diversity of trees planted on the campus. With over 200 species, Shoreline Community College is an arboreal paradise that deserves to b


Japanese Maple

Acer palmatum (SAPINDACEAE)



Jap., Kor., China, E. Mongolia, S.E. Rus.



"Two kinds of wind dispersal exist, pappose seeds (parachute type) and winged seeds. Pappose seeds utilize drag force acting on the pappi, while winged seeds mainly use lift force acting on their wing. The dispersal of winged seeds can be classified according to the center of gravity of the seeds. When the center of gravity of a seed is located in front of its aerodynamic center, the wing exhibits a glidertype translation during fall, without any rotation. However, if the center of gravity is located near the terminal end of the wing, the seed has rotational motion. For example, some winged seeds, such as maple tree, ash tree, and tipu tree, show autorotation phenomenon during their fall. This phenomenon slows down the descent of the seed to make longdistance flight away from the parent tree by wind. The autorotating seeds are observed to have much higher wing loading compared with the seeds that take other wind dispersal types, such as gliding and straying. For example, the wing loading of some autorotating seeds is about 450 % higher than that of gliding and straying seeds." [1]


Equity: Cultural and Historical Significance

"Development of Japanese maple cultivars started in Japan in the 1700s, when gardeners selected and bred or used grafting to propagate attractive variants in leaf features, and overall size and form of the tree. Currently, there may be more than 1000 varieties and cultivars present, including hybrids or grafts with species closely related to Acer plamatum, such as A. duplicatoserratum and A. japonicum (downy Japanese maple). Out of these, at least 350 cultivars are used in Europe and North America. The term “Japanese maple” does not represent one species and may be used to refer to any of the 23 species of Acer that are native to Japan...

However, many of those cultivars were destroyed during the two world wars, especially in the 1940’s. During the wartime era, the Japanese maple stands were cut down for firewood, and the land utilized for food production. Only since the 1960s has interest been revived in these trees.

When Swedish doctor-botanist Carl Peter Thunberg traveled in Japan late in the eighteenth century, he returned with drawings of a small tree. He named the species palmatum after the hand-like shape of the foliage, similar to the centuries old Japanese references kaede and momiji, to these trees.

The cultivars from maples found in Japan and nearby Korea and China are of great interest to bonsai enthusiasts and have long been a subject in art. Currently, numerous varieties are available commercially at garden centers and other retail stores in Europe and North America, and are very popular for ornamentation. It also has medicinal benefits. Preparations from the branches and leaves are used as a treatment in traditional Chinese medicine." [2]



Common woodworking uses include "Cabinetmaking, Decorative plywood, Decorative veneer, Factory flooring, Furniture , Interior trim, Paneling , Textile equipment, Wooden shoes, Bedroom suites, Bobbins, Building materials, Chairs, Chests, Concealed parts (Furniture), Desks, Dining-room furniture, Dowell pins, Dowells, Drawer sides, Figured veneer, Fine furniture, Floor lamps, Flooring, Furniture components, Furniture squares or stock, Hatracks, Interior construction, Kitchen cabinets, Living-room suites, Millwork, Moldings, Office furniture, Plywood, Radio, stereo, TV cabinets, Rustic furniture, Shuttles, Spindles, Spools, Stools, Sub-flooring, Tables , Trimming, Utility furniture, Veneer, Wainscotting, Wardrobes." [3]



[1] Lee, S. J., Lee, E. J., & Sohn, M. H. (2014). Mechanism of autorotation flight of maple samaras (Acer palmatum). Experiments in fluids55(4), 1718.

[2] Zakaria, M. and Klempay, B. (2015). Japanese Maple. Yale Nature Walk.

[3] Acer palmatum. Wood Database and Searchable Library.

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