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There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Japanese maple varieties. Certain cultivars, however, are more common than others and some of the names used are typically switched among varieties with little regard for accuracy or formal structure in naming. In general, some of the most common Japanese maple varieties include trees such as bloodgood maples, atropurpureum maples, dissectum maples, dwarf and bonsai varieties, and those that include descriptors such as “filigree” and “lace.” These terms not only serve to differentiate various cultivars, but also often indicate certain common traits and features among Japanese maples as well.
Japanese maple varieties can come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors and the names used often help indicate what can be expected from the type. In general, a Japanese maple is a tree or shrub that can range anywhere from about 1 foot (.3 m) in height to well over 30 feet (10 m) in height. They are well regarded for their leaves, which typically feature five, seven, or nine lobes and are similar to other maple leaves with a distinctive shape somewhat similar to a hand. This similarity lends various Japanese maple varieties their technical name, Acer palmatum, in reference to the palm of a hand.
While Japanese maples are natives to Japan, China, and other surrounding Asian areas, their natural beauty and distinctive shape have led to worldwide popularity. This has resulted in hundreds of Japanese maple varieties that are typically bred for certain features, such as leaf shape, size, or color, and tree size. The names of the different Japanese maple varieties often indicate how the maple appears, and due to the common usage of many of these names, they do not necessarily indicate a particular cultivar.
Bloodgood maples, for example, often have leaves that are red or dark red in color, and may turn to green or dark green in summer. These are similar to Japanese maple varieties known as atropurpureum that also typically produce leaves that are red, purple, or burgundy in color and fade to a lighter shade throughout the season. Dissectum maples are often similar to “filigree” or “lace” Japanese maple varieties and have leaves that are often finer, thinner, and more delicate in appearance.
There are also bonsai and dwarf varieties of Japanese maples. These trees are often quite a bit smaller in size than other trees, and may be more like small shrubs than large trees. Some of these varieties can even be grown indoors in small pots or may be included as parts of small gardens. There are also many types of Japanese maples that retain names indicative of their native cultures, such as kagiri nishiki and osakazuki.