Variegated Acers

Variegated Acers - Acer Palmatum Butterfly, a most popular variegated acer with uniform markings
Variegated Acers – Acer Palmatum Butterfly, a most popular variegated acer with uniform markings

Down through the centuries, few countries have given as much to the horticultural world as Japan, a land where variegated plants, and indeed variegated acers, have always been held in high esteem.

Acer Palmatum, endemic to Japan, is no exception and this passion for variegation (termed Fu in Japanese) ensures that the choice of variegated acers continues to increase thanks to a careful and constant process of selection and cross breeding. New and beautiful forms of variegated Acer Palmatum continue to be introduced, but these days, propagation tends to be a worldwide phenomenon.

Leaf Variegation could be termed somewhat an oddity of nature. The level of variegation varies widely among cultivars and tends to be caused by a lack of chlorophyll (the green pigment). Plants can range from extremes of no chlorophyll whatsoever (in which case the leaves have no trace of green) to relatively new varieties such as Acer Palmatum Shirazz which has predominantly creamy pink and maroon with just erratic splashes of green.

Variegated Acer Palmatum Cultivars
Acer Palmatum Shirazz, developed in New Zealand, emerges in spring with a rich pink foliage with light pink streaks which turns purple with cream streaks during the summer interspersed with green. The foliage turns bright red-purple in autumn.

Variegated Acers - Acer Palmatum Shirazz in elegant half standard shape
Variegated Acers – Acer Palmatum Shirazz in elegant half standard shape

Acer Palmatum Butterfly is a most popular variegated acer with uniform markings. It has pale green leaves with a pale pink and white margin. This type of uniform variegation is referred to as Fukurin Fu in Japanese.

Acer Palmatum Pink Passion – Another new introduction, Acer Palmatum Pink Passion has similar coloration to Shirazz with variegated pink foliage, tinged with cream, maroon and green colouring, the colours changing throughout the growing seasons.

Acer Palmatum Orido Nishiki is a rare variegated cultivar with pink and white foliage in spring, maturing to a pink and vibrant green in autumn.

Variegated Acers - Acer Palmatum Orido Nishiki a rare variegated cultivar with pink and white foliage in spring
Variegated Acers – Acer Palmatum Orido Nishiki a rare variegated cultivar with pink and white foliage in spring

Acer Palmatum Ukigumo is a cultivar with soft and harmonious colouration. It has varying degrees of variegation but is mainly white with green and pink blotching. In autumn, the foliage changes to a fiery orange-yellow glow. This variegated pattern of small green flecks on white foliage is known as Goma Fu in Japanese.