The Arnold Arboretum has an extensive collection of maples (Acer spp.), containing 141 of the approximately 230 botanical taxa from around the world. Because of its diverse and numerous holdings of wild-collected maples, the Arnold Arboretum is designated as one of the Plant Collection Network’s maple collection sites. Our collection is especially rich in rare and unusual Asian maples, including a number of endangered species. Because of these valuable accessions, the Arboretum’s maple collection was ranked as the most significant in the world for conservation purposes in a report by Botanic Gardens Conservation International. This organization, which promotes plant conservation efforts at botanic gardens and similar institutions, analyzed the maple collections of 228 institutions in 37 countries and found that the Arboretum holds the greatest number of Acer species listed as endangered or critically endangered in the wild. Maples are valued as garden ornamentals, shade trees, and timber, and of course there’s also maple syrup, the tasty result of collecting and reducing the sap of sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Many maples are noted for their outstanding displays of autumn foliage in shades of yellow, orange, and red. While less showy than the fall color, maple flowers are also quite beautiful upon close inspection when they bloom in spring.
- Several beautiful specimens of three-flowered maple (Acer triflorum) grow in front of the Hunnewell Building. While many maples have simple leaves (think sugar maple or red maple), A. triflorum has compound leaves composed of three leaflets. This maple develops excellent orange to red fall color and has attractive amber bark that exfoliates in narrow curls.
- Just across the road from the Hunnewell Building is the original specimen of Acer rubrum ‘Schlesingeri’ [pdf], a red maple cultivar introduced by the Arnold Arboretum. It is one of the earliest red maple cultivars to show fall color, often as early as mid to late August.
- Over 100 feet tall and over 100 years old, the large silver maple (Acer saccharinum, accession 12560-C) [pdf]along Meadow Road is a favorite with visitors and is thought to be the tallest tree at the Arboretum. This tree survived the big hurricane of 1938 but did sustain some damage from Hurricane Irene in 2011.
- The genus Acer holds a number of interesting examples of North American–Asian disjunct flora (closely related, similar-looking species that grow on separate continents). Among the Arboretum’s maples, note the similarities between the striking stripe-barked (or snake-bark) maples from Asia (including A. tegmentosum, A. davidii, and A. capillipes) and A. pensylvanicum(commonly known as striped maple or moosewood) from eastern North America.
- The maple collection holds accessions of Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and its cultivars, which are popular small ornamental trees. Similarly handsome species in the collection include A. pseudosieboldianum, A. japonicum, A. mono, and A. pubipalmatum.
- Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) has long been favored by plant connoisseurs for its lovely exfoliating, cinnamon-colored bark and bright red-orange fall color. The Arboretum holds two of the first paperbark maples in the United States, grown from seed wild-collected in China by E. H. Wilson in 1907; look for one venerable specimen in the heart of the maple collection, and a unique, wide-spreading specimen in the Explorers Garden on Bussey Hill.
The maple collection is bounded on the east by Willow Path and on the west by Meadow Road. It is south of the Meadow and north of the Bradley Rosaceous Collection. The collection is about a five minute walk from the Forest Hills Gate, and a twelve minute walk from either the Arborway Gate or the Centre Street Gate. If driving, park along the Arborway.
The maples are growing in a flat grassy area. The area, as well as Willow Path, is not wheelchair accessible. There are good views into the collection from Meadow Road, which is paved and fully accessible.
A self-guided tour of the maple collection is available online.
Link to a tour of this collection on Arboretum Explorer. Our new web application allows you to take self-guided tours of featured plants in our landscape. Follow this link and you will see colored leaf icons. Click/tap on an icon to get a plant name and image; click/tap the circled “i” on the right to get more detailed information. For more information on how to use the mobile application click/tap on “Help” in the menu.
How long should I explore?
Plan to spend about 20 minutes exploring the maple collection, and longer when the maples are blooming in the spring or turning color in the fall.
Plan your visit to the Arboretum.
- Dosmann, M. 2009. Autumn’s Harbinger: Acer rubrum ‘Schlesingeri’. Arnoldia 67(2): 32. [pdf]
- Del Tredici, P. 2007. The Paperbark Maple—One Hundred Years Later. Arnoldia 65(2): 40. [pdf]
- Meyer, P. 2010. Paperbark Maple Acer griseum. Arnoldia 68(2): 48-50. [pdf]
- Rose, N. 2008. Silver Wins Gold. Arnoldia 66(1): 36. [pdf]
- Dathe, M. 1983. Acer saccharum ‘Newton Sentry’: Setting the Record Straight. Arnoldia 43(3): 28-31. [pdf]
- Weaver, R. 1976. Selected Maples for Street and Ornamental Planting. Arnoldia 36(4): 146-176. [pdf]
Search for related articles in Arnoldia, the magazine of the Arnold Arboretum.