May through September, if you visit our house along with your kids you’re probably going to leave with a seedling of a Japanese maple. At any time there are dozens growing here and there, maybe hundreds could be found if you crawled around under the viburnums and moved aside the hostas.
Without stopping to count I suppose that there are fifteen or more large Japanese maple varieties in the garden, so when they cross pollinate the result is a bunch of unique seedlings, few looking identical to their parents, as you can plainly see in these photos taken beneath one tree. Japanese maples are like many other plants that do not come true from seed. The seedlings from a ‘Bloodgood’ maple are usually red-leafed, but the leaf shape will rarely be the same. ‘Bloodgood’ maples in nurseries are propagated from cuttings so that the rooted cutting is identical to the parent.
I recall reading a reference years ago that said there are more than twenty-five thousand named Japanese maple varieties, and most were probably discovered just as I did today, crawling under the big Bloodgood to take a few photos. The next step following discovery of a unique seedling is to grow it to a mature size, document its branching, leaf shape, and color through the seasons.
If these characteristics are different than the other twenty-five thousand recognized trees then you have a distinct variety. Then, is it better than the others so that it has commercial appeal? If not, and most are not, then this new tree that you named after your wife, or perhaps your favorite hound, is one of many thousands that will be seen only in collectors’ gardens, likely just yours’.
My collection of seedlings will be spread far and wide in gardens of friends and relations, known only as ‘the maple that uncle Dave gave us’.