Recognizing and collecting Beni Hime seeds

carolinabeach(8)April 15, 2007

I've been visiting a Beni Hime JM at my local arboretum for about 15 years, and last fall and winter started watching for signs of seeds. I never saw any. I love this little umbrella shaped tree! If successful with the seeds, I'll grow the tree in a pot with full morning-1PM sun. I understand this variety only gets about 3' tall in the ground, so I thought it would be happy in a pot. So, what do the seeds look like and when should they appear? Is it better to buy a grafted tree anyway, or are seedlings worthwhile? Thanks for any help!!

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Japanese maple seedlings due not grow true to the parents form. If taken from a red cultivar, they will likely be about 75 percent normal green seedlings, about 24 percent shades of red in spring and fall but green or bronze through most of summer, and about 1 percent (or less) should be a nice looking red foliaged tree.

However, if 'beni hime' is a witches broom (which is a deformed growth on an existing tree often resulting in a dwarf form of the parent tree that is cloned by cuttings or grafting, grafting for Japanese maples), it will likely never produce seed since many witches brooms are sterile. I can't confirm whether it is a witches broom or not (or whether it will produce seed), but in all honesty I would just go dish out the cash and get a grafted tree.

I have seen thousands of seedlings from about 30 different cultivars of japanese maples, and only about 5 or 10 have been close enough to the parent to consider growing as a replacement.

FYI, japanese maple seeds are samaras (which are basically pairs of seeds joined together with wings on each side). They look like upside down V's hanging from the branches, often hidden under the foliage. They should start to appear on most trees in the next few weeks, although they will be quite small. They will get larger throughout the summer before finally falling off in the fall around the same time as the leaves. They are often colored similarly to the leaves, however some cultivars have green samaras with red leaves (which is quite spectacular IMO).

Also, you can't really rely on the shape of the tree being a determining factor in which tree to choose. An umbrella shaped tree has likely been carefully pruned since 'beni hime' is usually more like a small shrub. Also, there are other dwarf cultivars that you could consider getting instead of 'beni hime' if you can't find it. Keep in mind that there are about a thousand cultivars, probably about 50 or 100 of them being dwarf red varieties.

If I were you I would check out mountain maples online nursery to see a fairly good collection. also has a huge selection of trees, but they only sell tiny trees that have just been grafted.

As far as sun goes, in the southeast it is best to give most JMs a little afternoon shade as they will get leaf burn in hot full sun in late summer. However, too much shade would likely cause mildew or a type of fungus to grow on 'beni hime' since it is often succeptable to such diseases (several dwarfs are succeptable, not just this cultivar).

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 2:44PM
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Thanks mattlwfowler! I will check out mountain maples. Is it possible to grow a similar tree as the parent from a cutting? If so, how, when and where on the tree do you take the cutting? I noticed a local bonzai seller was rooting cuttings from JMs.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 4:18PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

To do one cutting grafting etc is a bit absurd IMHO it's a long learning process and not worth it for one tree...BUT talk to the bonzai guy and ask him if he can do it for you for a fee...or do as Matt says and just buy one google it up and you should find several dealers ( as many of you know I hate Mountain Maples) but as you wish ..

In addition Matts seed thread is excellent I am SO tired of having to explain it or listen to others explain it I could drop!!! Matt.. cut and paste that into a word file or whatever and i will do the same... next newbe that asks we'll just use it ...thats the ticket as many more will since it is differnt than many other seeds and their propagation I hold no ill will to the askers they are just curious and that is good... just tired of repeating every few weks...GREAT expalnation!!! David

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 8:36PM
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Thanks David for the kind words.

About cuttings:
In general Japanese Maples are quite difficult to root from cuttings compared to other plants. Some vigorous cultivars root fairly well with lots of experience and great equipment/growing conditions. Large upright cultivars in general can be rooted more easily than dwarfs, variegates, or weeping varieties. There is also some question as to how well rooted trees perform as older trees compared to grafted trees. I seriously doubt you could get 1 tree to root out of about 25 cuttings with 'beni hime' unless you have a good amount of experience with rooting cuttings. It is not a cultivar that would take very well.

About grafting:
Grafting Japanese Maples is not overly difficult, but it requires plenty of practice, a little luck, and some decent equipment to have any success at all. However, you have to have an understock seedling which would require that you get seeds (unless you bought one but that would cost you about 5 bucks when you can probably by the grafted tree for about 20). IMO this would be somewhat of an 'out of the way' process for what you are trying to do.

As David said talk to the guy and see what he would charge you and keep in mind that you can probably get a newly grafted tree for 20 bucks or so. However, you would have more chance for success if you purchased a 3 year or older tree which can be had for less than 50 bucks.

I have no personal problem with mountain maples, but they are a little pricy IMO. However, they do have a nice selection. Personally, Eastfork nursery has impressed me more than any that I've purchased from (but I've only bought one tree from them so far).

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 12:14AM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

Beni hime ( "he may") is not easy to find and tends to be expensive since it is small and a slow grower and likely hard to graft ... ( 3 ft in 8-10years!!)I doubt Sam at eastwoods has one ...Sara at Wildwoods maples does and Greer garden also does including larger ones but they are pricey ( not greers but the larger trees),...both are reliable and good folks to deal with ...ask for Mr greer or Diane if you deal with them

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 12:47AM
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