Content Detail

Fullmoon maple is very similar in appearance to the true Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). It varies in size by cultivar and can be a large shrub or a small tree. The divided foliage, small, dangling purple flowers, and fall color make this a multi-season tree.

  • Family (English) Soapberry (formerly Maple)
  • Family (botanic) Sapindaceae (formerly Aceraceae)
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet), Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Mature height 20-30 feet
  • Mature width 20-40 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late spring, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Purple, Red
  • Shape or form Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

This tree is native to Japan, China, and Korea. This is an understory species.

Bark color and texture:

On the main trunk, the bark is smooth gray. The twigs are green or red and shiny.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves grow in pairs (opposite) and are simple. They are rounded in outline, have 7 to 11 lobes, and are 3 to 6 inches wide and long. Leaf margins are irregularly toothed. Their color is medium green in summer, changing to red and yellow in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are small, reddish-purple, and not very showy.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruits are pairs of winged seeds (samaras), often tinged with red or purple.

Plant care:

Do not prune maples in spring as they are ‘bleeders.’ Avoid planting in very hot, dry, or windy sites.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Frost damage can occur to leaves as they emerge in spring. Verticillium wilt is a potential problem for maples.

Fern-leaved fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’):

This small cultivar is 8-10 feet high, has deeply dissected foliage, and excellent red fall color.

Grape-leaved fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum ‘Vitifolium’):

This cultivar has foliage resembling grape leaves, whose fall color is red, orange, and yellow. The tree grows 20 feet high.

Green Cascade fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum ‘Green Cascade’):

This is a shrub-like cultivar (6 feet high) with a weeping form and deeply dissected green leaves that turn red in fall.


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