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Metro Maples - Shantung Maples and Fire Dragon® Shantung -   updated 7/27/13 
(New Maple Society Article on the bottom of this page.)

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Fire Dragon Shantung, patent #17367, was discovered as a chance seedling at Metro Maples. The first cultivar of a Shantung maple is called Fire Dragon® Maple and was discovered and introduced by Metro Maples.  A medium-sized shade tree that only grows to 25-35 feet after many years and can take the hot Texas sun.   Regular Shantung are also great maples that are very similar and explained below.

Fire Dragon® is the most consistent and reddest Shantung maple (and perhaps the reddest fall color of any maple) that I have ever seen, and was selected from among the twenty-two thousand seedlings I have grown. It also has a near perfect leaf shape that makes a more elegant and cleaner looking tree.

Shantung maples are in high demand and are gaining popularity in 49 states. This tree will prove to be "tougher and just as beautiful as any maple growing back east".  Hardy and heat tolerant, it will grow just about anywhere in acidic or alkaline soils.  Over 6,000 Fire Dragons sold since the 2006 introduction!

In 2008 in Tokyo I met a Chinese botanist, professor and author and had him pronounce Shantung.  He pronounced it Shan-doon.  The second syllable rhymes with moon and is slightly higher in pitch.
Fire Dragon leaf used in U.S. Patent application.  Color was Cardinal Red in the RHS Colour Chart.

 

This is a close-up of a Fire Dragon® leaf in the fall.  I have it patented  (PP #17367) because of its superior fall color and great leaf shape.  It's full name is:  Acer truncatum 'Fire Dragon®'.

METRO MAPLES INTRODUCTION - FIRE DRAGON®  MAPLE, PP #17367.

THREE HUGE FACTS:   (1) 3 days of freeze, each down to 24 degrees and not above freezing in NW Arkansas, in mid-April, did ZERO damage to 'Fire Dragon'® but defoliated all the oaks and other maples.  This event killed 3 years of growth all the way to North Carolina.  (2)  2011 was the hottest, driest, windiest, worst Texas summer of all time and yet  9 for 9 'Fire Dragons'® survived and colored up normally in the fall without irrigation in my dry sandy soil.  (3) Shantung maples were top performers with the least damage from the terrible ice storms in Oklahoma.

Fire Dragon Acer truncatum.  A Shantung that is red red in fall.  

 

Contrasting Shantung maples in fall color:   
Fire Dragon® Shantung, foreground, and a regular Shantung, background.   

Shantung are hardy to zone 4, and have not been damaged by ice or from temperatures 25 degrees below zero!

Shantungs have a fibrous root system which is not overly aggressive, and grows easily even in alkaline clay soils.

 

Burnt Orange new growth is the color when compared to RHS Colour Chart.  

 

Close-up of spring color on Fire Dragon® Maple. The new growth changes to a bright red in summer.

Most Shantung have a reddish-purple spring color and are sometimes referred to as 'Purple Blow' maple. Fire Dragon® maple has five very uniform toothed-lobes and the look is more elegant than regular Shantungs.

Planting tip: Best times to plant - mid-September thru early March..

2004 grafts.  The first time I had enough wood to graft 1,000 Fire Dragons.  

 

Hundreds of young Fire Dragon® grafts with late spring color in 2005 turning from burnt orange to a orange-pink.
 
Shantung maples grow 2 to 5 feet per year.

This tree has a superior root system with no faults except it cannot tolerate water-logged soils.

Summer new growth can be red.  

 

And here is the early summer rose-red color on Fire Dragon® maple.

The leaf is so distinctive, even when solid green, that I am always able to pick out this tree from regular Shantung maples.

The new growth colors are from pigments that might help protect the new leaves from ultra-violet rays or from insects, until the leaf has a chance to photosynthesize or produce tannins to ward-off insects.  Spring colors are awesome in cool weather.  

Red summer growth in August.  

 

Summer growth on Fire Dragon® maple.   It can also be a brighter red or a burnt orange.  

The 2002  picture that inspired me to patent Fire Dragon.  

 

Fall color of 'Fire Dragon'® Shantung maple (left), compared to 'Bloodgood' Japanese Maple in 2003. First grafts of Fire Dragon® were done in 2002, but when I saw this color I decided to patent this tree.  Perhaps the reddest fall color of any maple in the world.

The red color at left is 1 of 4 different red fall colors you may get.   

Unusual red colosr after a ridicuously hot fall.  

 

September thru November in 2007 was the second hottest fall ever recorded in the D/FW area, yet Fire Dragon® maples colored-up like this on December 2.

Reports have come in saying that Fire Dragon®  turns red from Oregon, New York, Virginia, to Arkansas and Oklahoma, and even all the way down to Houston.

As Red as Red can be on this Acer truncatum Fire Dragon, reddest Shantung maple.  

 

Finding a consistent red for hot, sunny climates has never been achieved until now. Here is 'Fire Dragon'® Shantung in the fall of 2007 with Ginkgo 'Autumn Gold'.  

I call this color red-red and it makes all other maples look purple-red or orange-red.  Most shade trees that turn red in the northern parts of the USA never produce red in Texas.  Do not confuse a Shantung with Sugar maple, Red, Silver or any other maple you have heard about.  This maple is totally different and you'll  be amazed at its beauty and toughness and other great qualities.

2009 was the first time Shantng maple 'Fire Dragon' started out orange and quickly turned to red.  Probably from 27 inches of rain this fall.  

In 2009 I saw a new fall color for 'Fire Dragon®'.  After 27 inches of rain in just the last 10 weeks, and endless clouds, and the first actual fall feeling temperatures in many years, some turned a brilliant orange, before turning red!

My first 65gal Fire Dragon turning a bright red on the Maple Knoll.  

Here is the top on a 65-gallon 'Fire Dragon'® maple with red color in 30mph winds.

There are at least 3 different red anthocyanin compounds that can form in the fall based mostly on temperatures and length of chilling, and soil pH does not seem to affect the color.  I have seen bright cardinal red, currant red with Chinese yellow margins, and reddish-orange, but never yellow unless it turns fall color early due to stress. 

Another cool thing about this tree is that fall colors are consistent on every branch and leaf, and color is not much affected by clouds or shade or high/low temperatures or soil pH.   I get this same color even underneath the native post oaks.

 

The attractive branching and bark of a Shantung maple. Three year old wood is very hard. One of the least damaged trees from ice storms according to Kansas State and Oklahoma State University studies.

Shantung maples grow in full sun in all soils except very water-logged soils. They can take the Texas heat or Minnesota cold, and are very drought tolerant.

They also adapt well to shade and can survive there for many years until they reach the sunlight.

 

 

Close-up of Shantung bark at the root flare on a 12 year old tree grown with very little irrigation or fertilizers.

Tip:  Although the wood is very hard the beautiful bark is soft and can be scratched or bruised.

 

A dark, glossy-green summer color. To me when they shine in the sun they look like green diamonds. Shantung maples have a very efficient root system that is not aggressive, a waxy and thick leaf, and low transpiration rates to help them through hot summers.

Shantung maples might grow to 35 feet tall and wide with age in the lower midwest. They grow faster and get a little bigger in warm climates than those grown farther north. 

They are hardy to at least 25 degrees below zero Shantungs were one of the very few trees that had no damage from the huge late freeze in April 2007 across the midwest to North Carolina that destroyed 2 to 3 years worth of tree crops.

 

Large Shantungs are not messy and will drop all leaves and cover the ground with color. They are easy clean-up compared to other trees and decompose quickly. Here are regular and Fire Dragon® leaves after leaf drop.

Acer truncatum has been used as a street tree in Shanghai for many years, tolerating the pollution, limited root space, and compacted soils.  In the difficult DF/W climate you should give your Shantung plenty of room for the roots to grow to give it the best chance of survival long-term.

In its native habitat, Shantung maples are expected to live 250 years or more.

 

'Fire Dragon'® Shantung maple in fall 2006 on the right with a regular Shantung, left.

Named after the revered symbol of its home country, China, the Dragon is considered a benevolent creature that brings rain!

100 year old Shantung at the Morris Arboretum in Pennslyvania.  

Here is a picture of an Acer truncatum, Shantung Maple that I photographed at the Morris Arboretum, PA. It is a beautiful tree, grown with its natural low trunk shape. It was at the Arboretum at least by 1916 but probably there in 1906, making it 100 years old when I took this picture.

Somewhere in its history a low branch was removed from the right-hand side to allow clear passage on the road. Pictures taken from the left side did not reveal branching, only foliage.

The tree was 35 foot tall and 35 foot wide. Main branching occurred at 2 feet. Trunk diameter is about 2 1/2 feet. No surface roots or decay was observed.

Kew Garden's very old Acer truncatum is 38 ft by 55 ft.  

In 2011 after the 4th International Maple Symposium in Belgium I traveled to Kew Gardens in London and photographed this Acer truncatum.  Most likely this is the tree in Maples of the World that stated was the first A. truncatum out of China and went to Kew in1871, making this tree 140 years old.

The top of the first branch crotch is 6 foot off the ground!  Estimated height and width is 38 x 50 feet.  The trunk at ground level was 3 feet thick.

Test Shantung named Mildred's Dragon.  

Here is a variegated Acer truncatum that I found.  I have many other test plants and hope to introduce more cultivars as soon as possible.  Some of the most likely prospects are pictured in 'More Maples'.

Spring flowers on a Shantng maple, Acer truncatum.  

The early spring blooms are bright and very nice on Shantung maples and this picture does not do it justice.  Most observed flowers are male flowers so seedlings have not been a big weed problem.

When you compare a Shantung maple to other shade trees it will always come out on top. It takes the heat, cold, wind, ice, bad soils, doesn't get too big, doesn't have surface roots, is long-lived, nice blooms, nice looking bark, nice leaf, doesn't produce many seeds, and has brilliant fall colors.  

Close-up of opening flowers on a Shantung maple, Acer truncatum.  

A close-up of a Shantung maple's half-opened flowers.

 

A regular seedling grown Shantung maple in fall color. This beautiful tree has been grown with its natural shape and is in my display garden. The shape of a Shantung maple can be affected by its location but will eventually become rounded when given the room to spread.

 

Here is a close-up of a regular seedling-grown Shantung maple.  It is as good a yellow as it gets.  Some years a mix of oranges and reds combine with the yellow.

Gate Shantung in 2006 a great yellow fall color and great grower for an Acer truncatum.  

Shantung in glorious fall color at the entrance to Metro Maples.  We have the largest Shantung maples in the DF/W area to look at.

Fifteen year old Acer truncatum at Metro Maples.  

Same tree as above only 7 years later.

Shantung maple at Metro Maples is 15 years old.  

Same as above without cloud cover and from the front side.

Picture used in The Maple Society article I sent in for publication.  

Metro Maples - Shantung Maple Cultivars:

Fire Dragon® Shantung maple (top left). Sales started in fall 2006.

Golden Dragon (top right).  First sales in fall 2009.

Skinny Dragon (bottom right).  First sales in fall 2009.

Witch's Dragon (bottom left).  Not available.

Baby Dragon (center).  Being propagated but first sales date unknown.

This is the picture used in The Maple Society Article, Summer 2006, see below.

Fire Dragon Shantung maple after record high fall temperatures in Texas.  

2010 was very dry and windy, then I had several record highs and 40+mph south winds in mid-November just as the Shantung began to color.  These 2 Fire Dragons®  managed to produce very nice color on November 22.

 

They were red-red in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and in Oregon where the weather was cooler, but generally orange-red this year in Texas.

 

WARNING: There are several garden centers and especially home improvement garden centers that are selling inferior maples that are labeled as Shantung maples. The two top left leaves are Shantung maples. The top right is a Norway maple that had a Shantung tag. The lower left leaf is probably a sugar maple that had a Shantung tag. Neither the Norway or Sugar maple are good trees for alkaline soils and will grow for only a short while and will not produce much fall color. Both the Norway and Sugar maple have smooth gray bark, whereas even a small Shantung will show some fissured bark and should be brown. If you purchased one of these mislabeled trees I recommend you return it immediately.

UNBELIEVABLE Fire Dragon Shantung surviving The 2011 Summer From Hell in Texas without irrigation!!!  

 

One of my proudest moments ever is when this, and all other, totally non-irrigated 'Fire Dragon' colored up after the hottest year of all time when many natives just perished in the heat.

First Texan to climb a Shantung maple and first King of the Shantung maple.  

Here I am, Keith Johansson, 'King of the Shantung'.  (Current number of Shantung I have personally grown over 20 years:  23,750)

This Shantung (ten years old as shown) was grown from seed in 1995 and planted in the year 2000 as a test. It proved to be drought tolerant through that record-breaking hot and dry summer without irrigation (110 consecutive days without rain), even though it was planted in the dryest possible place, the top of a pure sugar-sand hill.

Texas A&M has designated the Shantung maple a Texas Superstar®.  Kansas State University has performed trials and declared it one of the best ornamental urban trees. The United States Department of Agriculture is currently researching Shantung maples and my Fire Dragon® Shantung to introduce tough, reliable, and beautiful trees that will not out-grow small urban yards. Oklahoma, Missouri, Utah and Minnesota and others have given their approval.  Nobody has ever rejected this species as unsuitable.  The future looks very bright for Shantung maples.

 

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"Growing the Shantung Maple in Texas Conditions"

written by Keith Johansson for The Maple Society newsletter, published Summer, 2006.


Acer truncatum, Shantung maple, is thriving and gaining popularity in difficult situations, like the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area. I began commercially growing fifty plus varieties of Japanese, Shantung, and other maples in Fort Worth in 1994 under the name Metro Maples, but now I love the Shantung maple because of its toughness, good growth, and year-round beauty. Dr. John Pair, Director of Research, Kansas State University, told me back then at an American Rhododendron Society meeting that I should grow Shantung maples. He was one of the most respected horticulturists in the country and did the initial research on the tree in Wichita, Kansas from seed sent from the Morris Arboretum. Not only does Wichita get hot but it also receives severe cold snaps and strong winds. Many reports on the Internet claim the Shantung maple is cold hardy to at least minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit. In early December 2005 none were damaged by a sudden change from 90 degrees to 14 degrees, while many Japanese maples were damaged or killed.

Initially, Shantung maples were hard to sell, as nobody knew what they were. To me it seemed like a tough and beautiful tree but many thought it might be another Silver maple that falls apart quickly in my area. By year 2000 the Shantung maple and only two other trees were on the Texas A&M University Superstar list and sales took-off.

I have grown approximately 9,000 Shantung maples, which seed comes from China with a climate similar to New York. They are easy to grow from seed. Shantung seedlings have grown fast in the first year but lately they have grown slowly. I believe recent seed was harvested too soon. The average person with an established tree will get growth of 2 to 5 feet per year even in the alkaline black gumbo soils of Dallas or the white caliche soil of Fort Worth.

They are extremely drought tolerant as I have watched several survive without water during my very long and hot summers in my sandy soil. In my area they do require irrigation for the best growth. In summer 2000 I went 110 days without any rain. Last year was the worst drought in fifty years and I began watering my larger trees in summer, once a month to maintain good health. I have grown thousands in full sun in black pots on black plastic and can get new growth, which does not burn, from April until the first of September. Shantung maples must like it hot and somewhat dry as my extremely sandy soil never holds any water and dries-out very quickly and because for me they reach over 20 feet in 7 years!

The only native maple in my area is Acer negundo but is not a tree for most people. To the east and southeast where soils are acidic and rainfall more abundant is Acer rubrum and Acer saccharum spp. floridanum. To the south is Acer saccharum ssp. grandidentatum. In western Oklahoma there is a sugar maple that has survived the millenniums in a small canyon that is called the Caddo Maple. These all grow for me but are slower and are not quite as showy or as tough as the Shantung maple.

Shantung maple branches are flexible but old wood is very hard, much like an oak. They can grow in windy sites. Kansas State University proclaims them also as one of the best performing trees in ice storms. The bark is two-tone brown, heavily fissured and very attractive. The root system reminds me of a Japanese maple and is not overly aggressive or shallow rooted. They tolerate pollution and fit the typical urban landscape. About the only thing they cannot tolerate is poor drainage.

The bright lemon yellow flowers are produced in corymbs and this year one large tree had flowers for 10 days before the leaves emerged. Usually the flowers appear only a couple of days before the leaves. So far it appears that most seeds do not develop for me but this means that the tree is also not weedy.

Spring and summer new growth is usually a reddish-purple, but reds and oranges are also seen. Fall color is a very bright yellow on about 90 percent of the trees. Sometimes reds and oranges are mixed with the yellow. Sometimes they are all red or orange but return to yellow the next year except for a new introduction I call Acer truncatum ‘Fire Dragon’™. This tree has always had red fall color. The other reason I choose to patent and propagate this variety is the beautiful leaf shape (see photo). ‘Fire Dragon’™ has smaller leaves that are seldom truncate and have backward angled basal lobes, lobes with prominent teeth, and do not have the larger central lobe that is typical of most Acer truncatum. The size and shape of the leaves give the tree a cleaner look. Summer growth can be a burnt orange or pink or bright red depending on the nutrients and the amount of water. Fall color is a cardinal red (RHS 822/3), or when I don’t have cool temperatures it is a currant red (RHS 821/3) with striking Chinese yellow (RHS 606/1) around the margins. ‘Fire Dragon’™ also appears more heat tolerant as it has a good ability to keep healthy new growth without wilting under extreme heat conditions. What seems so amazing is that 4 years ago I had just one small mother tree, and now I have over 3,000 of them!

One of my first Shantung seedlings I grew is now 12 years old and turned out to be a nice little dwarf. It is always growing, trying to be big, but is only 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Its leaves are only 1 inch wide and new growth is a very attractive orange-red all summer. I call this tree, ‘Baby Dragon’. I have no plans for production but I do have some safely tucked away in another location in case a tornado takes mine out.

I am also testing two yellow fall color cultivars. One has very narrow and wavy leaf lobes giving the tree a delicate appearance. This one is called ‘Skinny Dragon’. The second tree produces a high percentage of beautifully shaped leaves with backward angled basal lobes and teeth on all the lobes, which is known as ‘Golden Dragon’. All Shantung maples have polymorphic leaves in varying percentages. These two are not any better or worse for fall color its just the beautiful leaf that is desired. There are also several other interesting leaves that I have found including one that has deeply cut lobes with side lobes that curl downward, (see photo). My seeds produce leaves that are similar in shape to ‘Golden Dragon’ about 30 percent of the time. Hopefully, soon I will find a dissected leaf. I have two new variegated seedlings under review. One does not grow much at all and we’ll see what the other does. Recently I grafted an Acer platanoides ‘Crimson King’ onto a Shantung rootstock to see if this tree will then grow in our area. I’ve thought about what I could hybridize a Shantung maple with but there aren’t many improvements needed.

Texans love fall color. Unfortunately the native trees, mostly oaks, hackberries, cottonwoods and pecans have poor fall color. They love Japanese maples but they must be shaded and carefully watered. Shantung maples act like a native and turn brilliant colors every fall. I am now planting Shantung maples all over the farm so when I retire they’ll be ready to put on a really big show that you’ll have to see to believe.

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"New Acer truncatum Cultivars"    

written by Keith Johansson for The Maple Society newsletter - published Winter 2011  

I never dreamed that the range in sizes and colors of Acer truncatum would be so vast, and in the beginning never went looking for new cultivars but they came looking for me.  I have been growing Shantung maples for 17 years and now have 17 distinct Shantung maples that are grouped into categories:   red or unusual fall color, dwarfs, mid size less than 15 feet (5m), columnar, yellow leaves, and variegated.  Here are two new cultivars to compliment ‘Fire Dragon’® Shantung (PP #17367) that I introduced in 2006.

Acer truncatum ‘Baby Dragon’ (PPAF) was discovered in 1994 and despite its fast growth is only 5 feet tall and a little over 6 feet wide (147.3 cm x 185.4 cm).  This dwarf has a weeping habit as the thin branches are unable to hold up the vigorous and dense leaf growth.  Caliper is just 2 inches (5.1 cm) and the bark is not heavily fissured.   Bark color is light gray, almost white, due to its slow caliper growth rate.  Average leaf size is less than 1 inch (20.2mm x 23.1 mm) and a light green on both sides.  It is never a dark shiny green like most Shantungs.  The veins on the underside are more prominent than usual, in part due to their relative size compared to the leaf size.  The 5 lobes are slightly wavy with margins entire and triangular ovate lobes broader at the bottom and deeply cut two thirds of the way to the leaf base.  Some bases are truncate but the majority is shallowly heart shaped.  The petioles are slender and a short .7 inch (17.7 mm), and maintain a light pink color on the upper side.  Milky sap is produced when broken.  Flowers or fruit have never occurred on ‘Baby Dragon’ but I expect the faster growing grafts to eventually produce seed.  A 4 year old graft is already 4 feet by 5 feet.

New growth colors are easily produced and are rusty deep pink to vivid strong pink. (Ed. - Photograph of 18 month old grafted plant in July).  Fall colors are a very bright yellow and red.   This maple is heat and sun tolerant, and like ‘Fire Dragon’® has shown an exceptional ability to avoid damage from early or late hard freezes when in full leaf. 

Acer truncatum ‘Super Dragon’ (PPAF) was discovered in 2006 and has a brilliant yellow green leaf with light yellow green veins that appear white.  Each spring the leaves unfold a moderate red orange with light orange yellow veins.   Summer growth colors are bright pink, orange, or red, all with light yellow green veins.   The yellow color never fades but deepens a little into summer (Ed. – photo of July mature leaf detail over new growth).  Unlike other yellow leaf trees it does not easily burn, even in the hot Texas sun.  Fall colors are a bright yellow with red.

‘Super Dragon’ has a slightly smaller than average leaf size with truncate bases and wavy margins.  The central lobe usually produces large, broad triangular teeth that also can occur on one or both neighboring lobes.  This cultivar has identical leaf colors on both sides.  Current year wood and petioles also display the leaf colors.  Winter shoots and buds may have yellow and red color but of a darker tone.  Like other Shantung maples it is a low branched, shrubby tree but is easily trained into a straight trunk.  The growth rate on this cultivar is a little below average so I expect this cultivar to have a smaller mature height of about 25 feet (8 m).   ‘Super Dragon’ should be hardy like other Shantung maples, and along with ‘Baby Dragon’ will be important parents in my hybridizing program of straight Shantung maples.

Shantung maple 'Super Dragon' on June 30th.
'Super Dragon'® first grafts on June 30th.

"Creative Chaos With Acer truncatum"

written by Keith Johansson for The Maple Society newsletter - published Summer 2013 

                Creativity is a chaotic process.  There was chaos in Beethoven’s life, which included deafness and was revealed in his moving 52 times and still never finding the right place.  We also see chaos in Alexander Flemming’s discovery of penicillin in a pile of dirty lab dishes.  Acer truncatum, Shantung maple, can also be creative when exposed to chaos.  In Texas I have frequently seen unusually hot summers the last 12 years.  I try to grow most Acer truncatum in containers in full sun on a west facing slope.  The soil is sugar sand and when the air temperature is hot I have recorded the temperature of the sand just below the surface at 147 degrees Fahrenheit (63.90C).  Checking the inside of the black plastic containers halfway down it can be 125 degrees F (51.70C).  These are not exactly ideal growing conditions.  In studying the growth of seedlings in response to this weather I believe that I am now seeing Acer truncatum trying to adapt. 

                There is always something good that comes out of every bad and in my case the good is true dwarf Shantung seedlings, now by the hundreds.  I first noticed in 2010 that 10 percent of my Shantung seeds were dwarfs, which I thought to be more than just a chance occurrence.  Then the year 2011 was the longest, windiest, and hottest summer ever in Texas.   This spring the seeds produced after that terrible heat wave have germinated and now nearly all the seedlings look like dwarfs.  This substantiates my thinking that the trees are adapting by producing offspring with very small leaves and miniature mature sizes to save water and better survive the heat.  Most of these dwarfs have small 1 inch to 2 inch leaves that resemble English ivy.  The branches are very thin and difficult to graft, and the buds are so small they are hard to see with the naked eye.  There are various growth habits including cascading, spreading, upright, or bushy upright to bushy with curving branches.  They are similar to the dwarf Shantung maple ‘Baby Dragon’ (PPAF) that I found in 1994 but these have different shapes and they have red fall colors.  I plan on introducing several of these in the future as they will be useful for foundation plantings or rock gardens in hot sunny locations.

                While we wait on the new dwarfs there are ‘Green Dragon’ and ‘Sugar Dragon’ Shantung maple cultivars to add to the ever growing list of diversity I have found from growing over 22,000 of these beautiful, adaptable, and heat tolerant trees.  ‘Green Dragon’ is a slow growing, smaller Acer truncatum that develops very heavily fissured bark, more so than any other I have seen.  Current year shoots are thick and show the beginnings of the corky bark near the end of the first year.  The original tree is 12 years old and very upright and only 12 feet tall when some Shantung can be 25 feet tall in that amount of time.  Most leaves have truncated bases but about 10 percent show backward facing basal lobes, which I discovered to be an indication of a tree’s size.  ‘Green Dragon’ is usually bright yellow in the fall, sometimes mixed with orange and red but the main features are its very corky bark, small size, and heat tolerance.      

                There are several more Shantung maples under review that only grow to 15 feet and can take the hot sun that I have grouped into a ‘Shorty Shantung’ class of test plants.  They all have various amounts of backward facing basal lobes.  The correlation of the basal lobes to slower growth was first noticed on a true dwarf named ‘Hubble’s Dragon’, after Scott Hubble who works with me.  He wanted to take this tree home to use in bonsai but I wouldn’t let him, so instead I named it after him.  ‘Hubble’s Dragon’ grows 6 inches a year and is also very upright.  Leaves are much smaller and different than normal, and are 5-lobed with two over-lapping, backward facing basal lobes, and 2 lobes that are usually at a 90 degree angle from a broader central lobe.  

                ‘Sugar Dragon’ is a variegated cultivar that is yellowish pink and creamy yellow in early spring.  This changes to various intricate patterns of green and white on every leaf.  The variegation is stable all year and so far has never reverted.  This, like all Shantung I have grown, can take the hot Texas sun without burn.  It is expected to be a mid-sized tree up to 15 feet.

                Acer truncatum appears to be a thinking tree, even without having a brain.  You can see their thoughts that are expressed in their growth.  Under chaotic weather conditions it also seems they can produce lots of better adapted offspring and in a very short amount of time.   I am currently introducing a yellow leaf Shantung maple cultivar, and since I already have a columnar form and various other forms and dwarfs, all I need now is a red Ieaf and a dissected leaf to complete the full range.  Now if only somebody can tell me how to get the dwarfs and the yellow cultivar to bloom I will get busy with spreading some pollen.

'Hubble Dragon' Shantung maple led to discovery of basal lobe connection to an indication of the mature size of a Shantung.
'Sugar Dragon' Shantung.

 

 


 

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