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A deciduous tree to 10 m in the wild. Bark grey to purplish grey. Branchlets glabrous, green, turning grey to brown and woody only after several years. Buds, ovoid, with five to eight pairs of imbricate scales. Leaves narrowly pentagonal in outline, base subcordate, three to five lobed, (6-) 8–15 × 7–15 cm, margins entire, lobes triangular to ovate, apically acuminate, upper surface dark green, lower surface pale green, softly grey pubescent, particularly along veins; petiole 5–9 cm long, slender, glabrous, exuding milky sap when broken; autumn colour clear yellow. Inflorescence terminal, corymbose, many flowered. Flowers yellowish, 5-merous, usually andromonoecious, sepals elliptic to oblong, ~0.4 cm long, petals oblong to obovate, same length as sepals, stamens eight, inserted in the middle or on outside of the nectar disc. Samaras 2 to 5 cm long, wings spreading acutely or erect. Flowering April, fruiting September (China). (Xu et al. 2008).
Distribution China Chongqing, northern Guangxi, southern Henan, Hunan, western Hubei, Jiangxi, southern Shaanxi.
Habitat Mixed forest in valleys between 300 and 1650 m asl
USDA Hardiness Zone 6-7
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note van Gelderen et al. (1994) treated Acer longipes as a synonym of the earlier A. fulvescens, though Xu et al. (2008) considered them as separate species, whose treatment we follow here. See below for further context. Xu et al.’s (2008) treatment of A. longipes also contains no lower taxa. Its subspecies as circumscribed by van Gelderen et al. (1994) are treated within A. amplum. See the account of that species for additional information.
Acer longipes has long been confused in cultivation, due to what might be described as over-enthusiastic lumping as well as many a mis-identification of cultivated material. Grimshaw & Bayton (2009) followed the treatment of van Gelderen et al. (1994), who had treated the species as a synonym of A. fulvescens. However, these authors had overlooked a key distinction between the two species, being that the branchlets of A. fulvescens are brown woody by the end of the the first growing season (as in A. pictum) and those of A. longipes remain green (as in A. cappadocicum). Thus, the mature, Wilson derived A. fulvescens in collections all became A. longipes, which in truth is much the rarer of the two species in cultivation. The second round of confusion came with many of the SICH Section Platanoidea introductions also being grown, and written of, as A. longipes, while these in fact belong to quite different taxa, namely A. cappodicum subsp. sinicum and A. pictum subsp. macropterum (details of each are provided in the accounts for those taxa).
True A. longipes is known in cultivation from only two mature plants, believed to be from two separate collections made by Ernest Wilson (K. Rushforth, pers, comm. 2014). Both are at Arley Castle, Worcestershire, with one found in the garden and the other in the neighbouring Nayboth’s Vineyard. Given that they have thus far proved difficult to propagate via grafting (K. Rushforth, pers, comm. 2015), the real Acer longipes remains one of the rarest maples present in cultivation. A thus far unverified specimen grows at Rogow Arboretum, Poland (P. Banaszczak, pers. comm. 2020), though 12 authentic seedlings are currently being nutured at Longwood Gardens, Pensylvania, having been collected in Hubei in 2018, under NACPEC18-007 (P. Zale, pers. comms. 2020).