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Acer buergerianum

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

The trident maple is aptly named for the leaf form that stands out from other maple species. Think of a simplified Canadian maple leaf. Leaves can vary in shape from tree to tree. This one (right) has a stubby central lobe, but others on web sites such as CalPoly's Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute (I rely on their data quite often) exhibit more distinct or elongated lobes, giving them a more striking appearance.

For designers, leaf shape, overall texture, and distinct fall color may enhance their landscape composition. Therefore, selecting trees in nurseries when they are fully leafed out (summer) or exhibiting fall color will be more reliable than placing a nursery order or relying on a contractor's eye. In particular, trees have a lasting impression, so it could be critical to take the time for tagging specific trees for a design.

I have not seen many A. beurgerianum in public landscapes where I spend most of my time these days. Nor do I see them at the nurseries, which admittedly could be just me and where I travel. This is, however, California, where drought is a frequent challenge. Maples generally appreciate more water than I am willing to give them, so my opportunities to specifying them in moist locations are rare.



Botanical Name: Acer buergerianum

Acer: Traditional Latin name for maple

Heinrich Buerger: Honoree, 19th century botanist

Common Name: Trident maple

Family Name: Sapindaceae

Origin: Eastern China, Korea, Japan

design considerations

Positioning: Lawn, patio/courtyard/small spaces, understory tree

Garden Themes: Pollinator, winter, autumn, children's

Uses: Small shade tree, specimen, bonsai/container

identifying characteristics

Type: Deciduous tree

Form: Round with low spreading limbs unless otherwise removed

Texture: Medium

Size: 25' wide x 25' tall

Outstanding Feature(s): Fall color (leaf), winter interest (bark)

Bark: Gray and exfoliating when older revealing an orange-brown interior


  • Type: Simple

  • Arrangement: Opposite

  • Shape: Palmate, tri-lobed

  • Margin: Entire to serrate

  • Color: Dark green turning red/orange/gold/yellow in Autumn (color may not be as intense in California, as it may depend on local temperatures and sun intensities). Slightly glossy.

  • Surface: Smooth

Flower: Inconspicuous

Fruit: Samara, light green turning brown

cultural requirements, tolerances & problems

Sunset Zones: 2-9, 14-17

USDA Zones: 5-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Moderate


  • Texture: Clay, Sand, Loam

  • Moisture Retention: Moist but well-drained

  • pH: Highly acidic to highly alkaline

Tolerances: Drought, salt, wind, and some soil compaction

Problems: Resistant to deer

  • Branch Strength: Medium to weak

  • Insects: Invasive shot-hole borer, aphids

  • Disease: Armillaria, verticillium, root rot

citations & attributions

Missouri Botanical Garden. "Acer buergerianum." Accessed on June 26, 2021, from

Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.

NC State Extension. "Acer buergerianum." North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Accessed on June 26, 2021, from

Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute SelecTree. "Acer buergerianum Tree Record." 1995-2021. Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo. Accessed on Jun 26, 2021, from

Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on June 26, 2021.


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