Friday, April 9, 2010

Acer palmatum 'Butterfly' has produced some enormous green leaves

I've had all kinds of problems with this plant, not this actual plant, but the cultivar 'Butterfly' over the years but never reversion. It burns in too much sun, or if it feels ill used for some other reason, It often seems to lose terminal buds and become twiggy, congested, and graceless. I actually like the contrast between the giant green leaves and the tiny variegated ones, though I will remove them (the reversions) next week.

When I moved to Asian Valley I must admit I was a bit uncomfortable finding this plant in such a prominent position at the Pagoda, but when I tentatively voiced that opinion to people more knowledgable about Japanese Maples than I am, George and Pat for example, I was reassured that if well sited and well tended, 'Butterfly' can be a beautiful plant. The problem is that all the Acer palmatum cultivars can suffer from leaf scorch. It's more a problem on newly planted specimens that don't have a root system sufficient to supply water quickly enough to offset transpiration deficits. Because they are so frequently used as specimens in the middle of a lawn (full sun) this is a problem many new gardeners encounter. After a period of time two things happen: the root system spreads, establishing itself and develops the ability to supply water when needed and The canopy of the plant grows to a size where it actually shades its own roots. Odd concept, like propelling a canoe without paddles just lunging and pausing...anyway it does get much better over time. The light variegation of our cultivar works against it in two ways: less chlorophyll means less sugar production so this plant doesn't have the vigor it would have if it were covered with those huge green leaves, and any browning is more visible.

Several people have suggested I visit the large plant at Brookside to see a perfectly grown 'Butterfly'. I've seen this plant dozens of times but never examined it closely till last year. It is nice. I think ours is sited well and expect good things from it but those sudden 90 degree days have already scorched the leaves a bit, as they have those of the Cornus controversa Variegata directly across from it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I live in UK and mine has suddenly produced oval leaves!!! They are in a pair on one stem. I blame all this toxic spraying everywhere - has anyone else had this problem? This is all very frightening as our environment is being assaulted by unwanted chemicals 24/7.