Ukigumo Japanese Maple

Ukigumo Japanese Maple

Few trees are as striking in a garden as the Ukigumo Japanese maple. The name, which fittingly translates to “floating clouds,” reminds me of a Japanese ink landscape painting (Sumi-e) from the Tokugawa Period.

Early Summer Mountains in the Rain

This hanging ink scroll by Tani Buncho (circa 1826) entitled Early Summer Mountains in the Rain, is a perfect example of how the mountains and trees float among the clouds as if they have no weight at all. It’s like two separate worlds are mixed in a dream.

Ukigumo Japanese maple

This is what I think of when I see Acer Palmatum Ukigumo. The small leaves are a mix of light and dark green with a fine mist of white blown over them—ash from a volcano, or an ancient aboriginal cave painting. The clustering leaves flow like drifting clouds around green-gray bark that peeks through the “mist” of branches like distant trees on mountains.

acer palmatum japanese maple

It’s very easy to get lost in poetics with Ukigumo. The tree is quite unusual. In the first year, leaves tend to be larger, and less white. Each year of age brings whiter, and daintier leaves with some puckering and curling. Some growers will find pale tones of pink, and others crisp white, sometimes there’s a hint of soft yellow among the maple’s leaves.

acer palmatum ukigumo

The Ukigumo Japanese maple will grow to about 10–12 feet at maturity, adding about 6 inches each year. It tends to grow vertically, and widens at the top. Ukigumo won’t develop a broad spreading canopy, instead it seems to send out shoots, and then fills in the branches as it ages.

Japanese Maple Ukigumo

While most Acer Palmatums prefer shade, this is one that absolutely must have it to perform. Many growers complain about it’s lack of white when planting the tree in full sun. It also puts out whiter leaves as it ages. so be patient with this tree, and you will be rewarded.