Acer rufinerve Sieb. & Zucc.

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Lawrence Banks


Dan Crowley (2020)

Recommended citation
Crowley, D. (2020), 'Acer rufinerve' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-04-16.


Common Names

  • Grey-budded Maple
  • Redvein Maple


  • Acer tegmentosum subsp. rufinerve (Sieb. & Zucc.) E. Murray

Other taxa in genus


Grey-blue often from superficial layer of wax (bloom).


Dan Crowley (2020)

Recommended citation
Crowley, D. (2020), 'Acer rufinerve' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-04-16.

A deciduous tree to 15 (–20) m. Bark green with white stripes, turning pale brown and shallowly fissured with age. Branchlets glabrous, dark green to glaucous, faintly striped white. Buds stipitate, ovoid, with 2 pairs of valvate scales. Leaves pentagonal, base cordate to truncate, 5– or obscurely 5-lobed, lobes ovate, 7–15 cm long and wide, apex acuminate, margins irregularly double-serrate, upper surface dark green, lower surface paler, with white to rusty pubescence, at least in vein axils and along veins at least at first, rusty pubescence persisting in primary vein axils; petiole 2–6 cm long, green, grooved; autumn colours yellow to purple. Inflorescence axillary or terminal, racemose, pendulous, ~15 flowered, 5–10 cm long. Flowers yellowish-green, 5-merous, usually androdioecious, pedicels 0.1–0.5 cm long, sepals oblong, 0.2–0.4 cm long, petals narrowly obovate, 0.4–0.5 cm long, stamens 8, inserted outside the nectar disc. Samaras 2–3 cm long, wings spreading narrowly to broadly. Flowering in May, fruiting in October. (Bean 1976; le Hardÿ de Beaulieu 2003; Ogata 1999; van Gelderen and van Gelderen 1999).

Distribution  Japan Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu

Habitat Temperate deciduous forests between 300 and 2000 m asl.

USDA Hardiness Zone 5-6

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Awards Award of Merit

Conservation status Least concern (LC)

Another of the snakebark introductions made by Charles Maries for Veitch Nurseries, Acer rufinerve arrived in the United Kingdom from Japan in 1879. Prior to this it had been introduced to the Netherlands by Siebold in 1860, and to Russia by Maixmowicz in c. 1862, entering North American commerce probably in the early 20th century (Jacobson 1996). Morphologically it bears resemblance to the North American A. pensylvanicum, from which it differs most markedly in its glaucous shoots and persistent gingery pubescence on the leaf undersides. Its nutlets are also spherical, while in A. pensylvanicum they are more flattened. A. tegmentosum also has bloomed shoots, though often more strongly, while its leaves are larger with shallower lobes, appearing orbicular in outline. From its compatriot A. capillipes, it can easily be separated by the absence of membranous pegs in the vein axils present in that species, along with its pubescence. It also has stouter pedicels on its flowering racemes. The common name of Grey-budded Maple can be slightly misleading, as these often have some red in them, particularly later in winter.

Noted by van Gelderen et al. (1994) as one of the most common snakebarks in cultivation, it remains so, and is well represented throughout our region by numerous recent collections from the wilds of Japan, as well as by several cultivars. Plants at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, grown from seed from NAJAPAN 57 and collected in Naeba Forest, Niigata Prefecture in 2006, have formed sprawling plants, with somewhat untidy branching. Meanwhile, a specimen of SOKU 63, planted to mark the occasion of the first International Maple Symposium held at Westonbirt in 2002 had made a shapely tree of 5 m by October 2019 (pers. obs.). Numerous collections made across several expeditions led by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh are well represented there and at its satellite gardens at Benmore, Dawyck and Logan under the codes of EIKJE, EJE, and ESJE Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (2018). Additionally, material collected on joint expeditions between the RBG Edinburgh, Polly Hill Arboretum, Quarryhill and the Howick Arboretum, is well represented in these collections under the codes BBJMT and BCJMM, and this material has found its way into other collections both in the United Kingdom and in North America, for example the Arnold Arboretum (Arnold Arboretum 2020).

The species is considered tolerant of some drought and also wetter environs, though not of saturated soils (Vertrees & Gregory 2009).


Synonyms / alternative names
Acer rufinerve var. albo-limbata Hook. f.
Acer rufinerve f. albolimbatum (Hook. f.) Schwer
Acer rufinerve 'Albomarginatum'
Acer rufinerve 'Argenteum'
Acer rufinerve 'Fuiri urihada kaede'
Acer rufinerve 'Hatsuyuki'
Acer rufinerve 'Hatsuyuki-kaede'
Acer rufinerve 'Marmoratum'
Acer rufinerve 'Uriha nishiki'
Acer rufinerve 'Shufu nishiki'
Acer rufinerve 'Whitedot'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H5

Illustrated for Curtis Botanical Magazine in 1869, having been introduced by Standish Nurseries, Ascot (Hooker 1869), this form was known in cultivation before the typical form of the species was grown in Europe. Its foliage is often spotted white, with white margins, while some leaves can be entirely white (le Hardÿ de Beaulieu 2003). Slow growing, it was described as a ‘beautiful maple’ by Bean (1976), though as ‘not very striking’ by van Gelderen et al. (1994, p. 159). Opinions on its attractiveness are clearly mixed. Propagation via grafting is advocated though given it is also grown from seed with characters proving somewhat variable, it may be more appropriate to refer to this taxon as a cultivar Group. It is not known as to whether the cultivar names listed as synonoyms here, as recorded by Vertrees and Gregory (2009), refer to seedling derived plants, though it is suspected that, in at least some cases, they do.


RHS Hardiness Rating: H5

A small leaved form noted for its yellow shoots, which turn orange and red in winter, similar to those of the Acer pensylvanicum selection of the same name, though not as distinctive (van Gelderen et al. 1994). Smaller leaved and slower growing than the typical form of the species, it is difficult to propagate and difficult to grow, requiring more care and shelter than other selections (Vertrees & Gregory 2009). It was described by R. Marshall of Brinfield Gardens Nursery, Connecticut in 1953 (van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999).


RHS Hardiness Rating: H5

A yellow-variegated selection. Leaves are predominantly bright yellow, with small or large green blotches arising from the midrib. New growth is pink at first (Plantentuin Esveld 2006).

'Winter Gold'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H5

Grown from a chance seedling selected by the late Peter Douwsma of Victoria in 1974 (Vertrees & Gregory 2009), ‘Winter Gold’ displays golden yellow bark in winter. In summer it is a yellowish-green, with foliage typical of the species.

'Yellow Ribbon'

RHS Hardiness Rating: H5

A selection noted for its lemon yellow stems and salmon pink shoots (Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery 2020).