The Beauty and the Parthenocarpy – Acer triflorum

Beauty is found in almost any maple tree, even if we are to consider only their colourful fall display. The Beast shows its ugly head especially in the case of trifoliate maples and is called parthenocarpy. As a remainder, this means production of seedless fruits (without the fertilization of ovules).

A really undesirable trait, especially for species with indehiscent fruits (samaras, nuts, achene), either if we want their seeds for consumption or to use them for propagation! This is also the explanation for the rarity of some magnificent tree species in our landscapes. Acer griseum, the best known of the trifoliate maples presents parthenocarpy to some extent but not as much as the beauty called Acer triflorum.

Acer triflorum fruit

Acer triflorum

A trifoliate, very hardy maple from Manchuria and Korea “simply an outstanding small specimen maple, lovely foliage, exquisite bark and small habit contribute to the overall landscape effectiveness…; uses for good trees are endless” (Michael Dirr)

I did a little experiment with about the 60 seeds I had and a pruning shear. By nicking the end of the extremely hard samara and then cracking it longitudinally you can extract the seeds, if any. I found 3 viable seeds and 3 aborted (stenospermocarpy) – about 5% viable seeds!

PS. One easy method to separate seedless fruits is to check if they float; the ones with seeds will go to the bottom. This is recommended for many species when we actually sow the fruits (like samaras and nuts) and it is hard to say if there are any seeds inside.
The fruit wall is so hard in Acer triflorum that it needs lots of stratification just to wear it down, so I preferred to extract the seeds (I didn’t expect to find any, but perseverance paid off :)

4 replies
  1. AmyO
    AmyO says:

    A. griseum and A. triflorum are two of my favorite trees! I had to leave a beautiful A. griseum behind when I moved to Vermont but now I have a very small A. triflorum to nurture along.

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      That must have been hard for you. You can find A. griseum while I’ve never seen A. triflorum for sale around here. Did you grew yours from seed?
      Maybe from the 3 seeds I can hope for a seedling…

      • Amy Olmsted
        Amy Olmsted says:

        We sell A. triflorum trees at Rocky Dale Gardens! And they’re pretty nice. The one I have was kind of misshapen and ugly, but it’s growing and looking a bit better. Someday it will be a glorious tree!

        • diversifolius
          diversifolius says:

          Lucky you! As usual, we lag behind when it comes with unusual species, especially when it comes to trees and probably even shrubs.

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