Noteworthy Books on Maples and NYBG
The Judy and Michael Steinhardt Maple Collection
This historic collection, established more than seventy years ago, has been greatly enhanced with the addition of over sixty new Japanese maple cultivars and other garden-worthy maple varieties. Unrivaled for their autumn foliage, these lovely small trees offer an array of graceful forms, vivid spring hues, colorful summer foliage and bright winter bark.
The 2016 collection features classic New York maple favorites that have been at NYBG for decades, as well as new additions that highlight Japanese maple cultivars. The historical maple collection at the Garden was established in the late 1930s and early 1940s to feature maples that would thrive in New York’s climate. Thanks to the generosity of Judy and Michael Steinhardt, we were able to completely restore the collection, opened in 2016, and featuring Japanese maple cultivars, which are great garden plants.
Located on a sun drenched knoll between the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden and the Benenson Ornamental Conifers, the Maple Collection features dozens of rare and unusual specimens planted among rock outcrops and ancient shade trees that rise above open lawns. Prized historic specimens include a remarkable trident maple (Acer buergerianum) native to China with glossy three-lobed leaves and attractive exfoliating bark, a rare devil’s maple (Acer diabolicum) native to the mountains of Japan, and an unusual Nippon maple (Acer nipponicum), with chartreuse twigs and thick, wrinkled leaves. Spread out over about five acres in a southeastern corner of the garden, the Steinhardt Collection is a place that all garden visitors will appreciate. Visitors will notice the exposed bedrock outcrops alongside the wonderful maple trees, both new and old.
In 2013 the Garden retained landscape architect Shavaun Towers to develop a plan to enhance and expand the collection. Towers’ design features new pathways that better integrate the Maple Collection into the surrounding landscape and lead visitors through groves of rare and unusual trees. New interpretive signage invites visitors to explore and learn about the natural history of maples and their important role as garden plants. New seating and gathering spaces provides opportunities for visitors to sit and reflect upon the beauty of the maples and the surrounding landscape.
Deanna F. Curtis, the Garden’s Curator of Woody Plants, worked with maple experts across the country to select the best Japanese maple cultivars and other rarely-cultivated maple species and cultivars from Asia, North America, and Europe to add to the collection. The new maples are planted to combine beautifully with existing specimens. Curtis collaborated with Senior Curator Kristin Schleiter, the Garden’s Associate Vice President of Outdoor Gardens and Senior Curator, to source Japanese tree peonies and flowering perennials that have been planted amidst the maples to add splashes of color throughout the year. The Judy and Michael Steinhardt Maple Collection can be enjoyed year round allowing visitors to observe the graceful transformation of the tree collection throughout the seasons.
Readers of this page are encouraged to learn more about Japanese Maples by reading the books suggested in this guide, specifically those by J. D. Vertrees. There is a phenomenal amount of information written about Japanese Maple classification, culture, and gardening, and the books listed are excellent resources.
Would you like to create your own maple collection or enhance your property with a specimen that you fell in love with in the Steinhardt Maple Collection? There about 120 Maple (Acer) species worldwide. Here are a few popular ones and their preferred growing conditions so you can choose wisely.
- Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) transplants easily balled and burlapped or as a container plant into moist, high organic matter, well-drained soil; protect from winds and late spring frosts for the young foliage is sensitive to cold. Ideally provide dappled shade, but not too shady or purple leaved types will become more green. Too much sun may stress the tree. If the trees are adequately cared for in the early years of establishment, they can usually cope better with stresses imposed in later years.
- Acer griseum (paperbark maple) transplants well balled and burlapped or as a container-grown plant in spring; adaptable to varied soils; prefers a well-drained and moist environment but performs well in clay soils; pH adaptable; full sun although all trifoliates withstand partial shade and still produce respectable fall color.
- Acer rubrum (red maple, scarlet maple, or swamp maple) transplants readily as a small, bare root or container-grown specimen, or balled and burlapped in larger sizes. Excellent shade tree cultivars are available. Red maple is the light that brightens the fall sky throughout the northern, midwestern, and northeastern United States. It is better to move this tree when dormant, although summer digging is now common. It is very tolerant of soil variations, however it prefers slightly acid, moist conditions; tolerant of ozone and intermediately tolerant of sulfur dioxide.It occurs naturally in low, wet areas and is often one of the first trees to color in the fall. A. rubrum shows chlorosis in high pH soils; in the past this was thought to be due to iron deficiency, however, research has shown that manganese is the causal agent.
- Acer saccharinum (silver maple, white, or river maple) is very easy to care for. Acer saccharinum is often seen on the forest floor under a canopy of leaves, gradually developing and assuming its place in the forest. It transplants well bare root or balled and burlapped and is tolerant of wide variety of soils but achieves maxium size in moist soils along stream banks and in deep, moist soiled woods. It prefers slightly acid soil. Beware, it will cause sidewalks to buckle and drain tiles to clog because of vigorous, feeding root systems. A. saccharinum is one of the best trees for poor soils where few other species will survive. Susceptible to salt, it does not perform well in tight, compacted situations such as planter boxes, small tree lawns or other restricted growing areas. Not extremely air pollution tolerant.
Japanese Maple Classifications
The newest additions to the Maple Collection are Japanese maples which come in an extraordinary number of forms and provide exciting color in both spring and fall. While the term Japanese maple may be used by nurseries to cover the cultivars of many maple species, horticulturally, Japanese maples are the cultivars of Acer japonicum and Acer palmatum which have been bred in Japan for over three centuries.
Acer palmatum is the species to which most Japanese maples belong. It is divided into two subspecies and seven groupings of cultivars. These groupings are largely defined by the depth of leaf division:
- AMOENUM GROUP has leaf lobes shallowly to moderately divided, up to ⅔ of the leaf’s length
- PALMATUM GROUP has leaf lobes divided deeply, from ⅔ to ¾ of the leaf’s length
- MATSUMURAE GROUP has very deeply divided leaves, at least ¾ of the length of the leaf
- LINEARLOBUM GROUP has narrow, entirely divided leaf lobe
- DISSECTUM GROUP has deeply divided leaves and further deep dissections into sub-lobes
- DWARF GROUP has a mature height of less than six feet
- OTHER GROUP has all A. palmatum that do not fall in one of the above groups
In addition to Acer palmatum and Acer japonicum, there are numerous other maples that are not originally native to but cultivated in Japan. These are referred to as maples from Japan and include A. buergerianum and its cultivars, non-native cultivars of Acer japonicum, Acer rufinerve and many more.