Acer shirasawanum

It is somewhat confusing how Acer shirasawanum and Acer japonicum are both commonly known as the “full moon maple.” They do share a similar leaf type with lobes that radiate symmetrically to form a moon shape. However, using the Latin names is the most accurate way to describe these species. If common names must be used, Shirasawa maple would be a better name for Acer shirasawanum with Acer japonicum keeping the title of “Full Moon Maple.” In any event, both of these trees offer a distinctly different appearance than the typical Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) making them unique or even collectible landscape choices.


Besides the iconic leaf shape mentioned above, one other distinguishing features of Acer shirasawanum is the unique color of the bark. On older trees, the branches are clearly a silvery-white color with fairly smooth texture. Two of the most highly sought-after varieties are Aureum and Autumn Moon which boast yellow and orange color respectively!


Many Japanese maples are only hardy to Zone 6, but cultivars of Acer shirasawanum are generally hardy to Zone 5, making them a good choice for colder climates and areas of the upper midwest where most Japanese maples won’t survive. The twigs and bark of Acer shirasawanum are also more resistant to burn and scald, meaning they are surprisingly tough yet relatively slow-growing ornamental trees.