Acer palmatum, Sango kaku (Coral Tower) Japanese Maple fall colors
The Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku', Syn. 'Senkaki' (Coral Bark maple, Cinnabar Wood maple [Vertrees]) is the second Japanese maple to turn this fall. This is the oldest Japanese maple in the yard except for the 'Bloodgood' we inherited when we moved into the home.
Like the 'Beni kawa' mentioned in a previous blog the Sango kaku's bark is colored bright red which fades somewhat on the older wood. Like red twig dogwood it is a great plant to have for winter interest especially when contrasted by snow. Many people buy the tree for the red bark but the tree makes a wonderfully shaped small specimen tree and the yellow gold leaves with a hint of apricot makes it a great fall tree too.
I originally planted the tree in our front yard which faces NNW. The year's new vegetative growth always suffered from the winter cold, burning the tender branches so the tree barely grew. The dieback stunted the tree terribly. I finally decided to relocate the tree to a more protected southern exposure and the tree has more than doubled its original size of 4 feet in two years and is now about 10 feet in height. The tree will eventually attain a height of 25-30 feet. I had previously moved several good sized JMs and haven't lost any. The Japanese maple has proven to be a very tough and resilient tree with no evidence of transplant shock or leaf wilt so I had no fear in moving the tree.
Apparently some Japanese writers have indicated that their Sango kaku have unremarkable leaf color in fall and describe the bark color as a pink rather than red so the tree we call Sango kaku may not be the same cultivar as the Japanese trees. I wonder why the discrepancy?
Here's a quote on the UBC Botanical Gardens forum from a person known as Mr.shep who seems to be very knowledgeable about Japanese maples.
"...the old Senkaki (Coral Bark Maple) or what we called
the true Japanese form is not the same plant as Sango kaku
(Coral Tower). There are a variety of differences in these
two Maples. The bark color of your Maple is more consistent
with Sango kaku rather than Senkaki with its more coral in color,
almost a salmon pink in color. The lower trunk colors are the
same on both Maples but as Andre pointed out the branch color
in Sango kaku can indeed turn to a grayish color here later in
the year whereas Senkaki will have red colored twigs and will
have coral branch color year round. There is even a finer line
that separates Waka momiji Red Stem and Sango kaku as
opposed to Sango kaku and Senkaki. Mr. Vertrees to my
knowledge never owned a Senkaki to know this Maple well
at all. The one glaring post in the Vertrees books was that
the Japanese did not see strong Fall colors on their Sango
kaku when we could see glowing gold tones even in Fresno.
The reason is that the Maples were not the same plant.
Senkaki produces light yellow tones with some red flecks
but is not a strong Fall color producer. There has been
one so-called new Maple from Japan shown in this web
site that is nothing more than a "washed out" seedling
version of the old Senkaki Maple. People have not grown
enough seedlings from Senkaki to have seen the wash out
in bark color occur naturally."
..."What will confuse people is that the old Sango kaku that came into
the US from Japan is not the same plant more prevalently seen
in Europe. The seedling that came out of Oregon confuses the
issue even more."
Another look at the mature fall colors of the A. palmatum 'Beni kawa' which I mentioned in a previous blog. This photo was just taken a couple of days ago and the leaves are starting to turn brown at the edges. You can see that the color is a bit different than that of the Sango kaku, more peachy and less yellow. The tree in the background which is just starting to turn is a Acer palmatum 'Seiryu' the only green upright dissected leaf (split leaf) Japanese Maple. Usually the dissectums are weeping trees so the Seiryu is quite unusual because it doesn't weep.