acer palmatum "seigai"

Discussion in 'Maples' started by neko musume, Mar 24, 2006.

  1. neko musume

    neko musume Active Member 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    los angeles, ca

    my first question concerns how often seigai, seigen, bonfire and akaji nishiki are being confused by people online.

    i was looking at the bonfire photos posted in the maple gallery and after reading mjh's last post, i am completely confused.

    having remembered something i'd previously read, and if i understand it correctly, i found that mr. shep had confirmed that seigai, akaji nishiki and bonfire are indeed different forms.

    i then looked at a number of sites including ganshuku and esveld and was even more confused.

    on esveld's site, the photos for seigen include a shot of a set of variegated leaves. in the photos for bonfire, there is a strip of paper identifying this cultivar as synonymous with akaji nishiki.

    the only proper photo for i found for seigai, is in the 3rd edition of vertrees' book, p. 203, and it is said to be identical to akaji nishiki.

    one photo i found for akaji nishiki, on a japanese maple website, definately showed variegation, which i'm assuming would make sense because of the "nishiki" part of it's name.

    mountain maples says seigai is the same plant as bonfire.,25,14_37/*ws4d-db-query-Class_Quicksearch.ws4d?ClassNo=56

    my second question is, are all these four plants different or is everyone, including myself, just really mixed up.

    sorry if this was really really tedious. any thoughts would be most welcome, and i'm sorry if i didn't do the links properly. i'm really burnt out right now.

    thank you !

    n. musume
  2. mjh1676

    mjh1676 Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    Southern Oregon
    Let me help a little--nishiki does not mean variegated--if refers to the branching structrue of the tree in that is very twiggy in nature of made up of very small branches. Both Bonfire and Akaji nishiki are nishiki forms of maples.

    I will have to do a little research to give you some more specific reference photos and to evaluate the links and references you have given.

    More later.
  3. mjh1676

    mjh1676 Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    Southern Oregon
    Yes, they are 4 different plants. I have not seen Bonfire in person, but I have seen Seigai, Seigen, and Akaji nishiki.

    I will give you some help, but keep in mind, that we are distinguishing these tree for the sake of doing so. For effect perpuoses, any one of the bunch will give a similar effect in a collection aside from the fact they differ in growth habit some.

    As described in the Verterees 2nd ed. Bonfire originated in California and is a dwarf form of Akaji nishiki. Wider than tall, it will grow only to 3-4 feet. Akaji nishik will grow taller than wide to about 9ft with age. The leaves and colors differ a bit, but they are quite alike in that regard. The photos Esveld shows are Akaji nishiki.

    If you look at page 136 in the Vertrees 2nd eition, the photo of Seigai depicts a plant with a bit larger leaf, more open at the palm, and the summer color is a darker green. The others do not really get that deep of a green which is close to what I see in my Kiyohime. Segai is not a tall tree either.

    I have a "Bonfire" from Mountain Maples that I got a while back (before the prices where so high) and it came to me labled 'Bonfire' (ORE). To me that can only mean the "Oregon Form of Bonfire"--probably having come from Vertrees and that plant is Akaji nishiki. I might show pictures later.

    As for Seigen, it has a much more round or palmate leaf and larger than any of the others. It is not variegated, but is sold in a red form, Seigen rubrum, a standard form, Seigen, and now a yellow form Seigen aureum. I think that Seigen aureum and the standard green Seigen are the same. I am pretty sure that some of the Esveld photos for Seigen are incorrect--but that is bound to happen.

    In the photo gallery, I mentioned Wilson's Pink Dwarf. It is more comparable in size to Akaji nishiki, making it a semi-dwarf for sure. The leaves and color might differ just a little, but I have trouble telling the two apart.

    From what I have seen over the past few years at numberous nurseries in Oregon, amost all of the trees that are sold as Akaji nishiki or Bonfire are the Oregon form of Akaji nishiki.

    Now, with all of that you will be no less confused than you were when you asked the question--these are plants we need to see side by side and unfortunately I have not been able to track them all down. When I do, I will certainly post the photos here.
  4. mjh1676

    mjh1676 Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    Southern Oregon
    Here are a couple of photos the aforementioned Akaji nishiki. One taken 4/29/04 and the other 11/10/05. The fall photo showing pretty poor fall color. It can show better fall colors, but it is not dependable.

    Attached Files:

  5. neko musume

    neko musume Active Member 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    los angeles, ca
    wow mjh,

    thank you so much for the prompt, and thorough replies !

    i stand corrected on the meaning of nishiki. something i read once stuck in my head and i didn't consider another meaning for the word.

    i think i will have to draw out a diagram for this group of trees to get a better understanding of how they are related and what their differences are.

    i will also have to get the 2nd ed. of vertrees' book to see the examples you are referencing.

    and thank you very much, mjh, for the photos of akaji nishiki. i can see that it's habit is decidedly different from the photos i see of bonfire, which are frequently described as ideal for bonsai.

    ok. so the photos you posted in the gallery under bonfire, are indeed, what bonfire is supposed to look like when if leafs out; that very bright, clear red. and is that the one you got labeled as bonfire (ORE).

    the tree that yweride posted does look very different from all the other photos in that post, in the length of leaves, the greater amount of serration in the leaves and the long shoots. but perhaps you are correct in that it has been influenced by fertilizer.

    thank you again, mjh, for all your help. i am still a bit confused, but i think with a bit more studying and staring at photos in the 2nd ed. book, i'll be able to figure it out.


    n. musume
  6. mjh1676

    mjh1676 Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    Southern Oregon
    I just double checked the 3rd edition text and the photos I referenced were not carried over from the 2nd ed. The 2nd ed. has really turned out be indespensible.

    Just to clarify, the photos I posted under Bonfire are the Bonfire (ORE) from Mountain Maples which is Akaji nishiki, the same plant I posted in this thread last night--they are the same maple. I just posted over there to make a point that it is possible that all of the plants we see posted as Bonfire will or could turn out to be Akaji nishiki.

    The bright color on the spring leaves also proves the point that if we just take a leaf shot at the same point in the spring, it will be very hard to distinguish the two plants, Bonfire and Akaji nishiki. We can do it with leaf size and color, but we are better served by seeing the overall growth habit.

    If you look at the Eslved photo of Bonfire that shows the whole tree that is potted--is it wider than tall? It is certainly not. And while it is small in stature, we have no way of knowing its age or anything else about it, and therefore, in my mind, I have to consider that plant to be Akaji nishiki. But then again, you see how the spring and later season photos confused you--there is not much difference between the two with respect to overall effect.

    I will keep and eye out for plants and photos that may help eveyone with this group. I love the spring color, but it doesn't last long on these guys and the later season colors are overly impressive.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2006
  7. neko musume

    neko musume Active Member 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    los angeles, ca
    mjh, thank you for the clarifications. all this talk about these four trees makes me wish i had at least one of them !

    and yes, any photos you can find on any of them would be most helpful. i'm always curious to see what all of the japanese maples look like when grown by plant enthusiasts in their particular environment.

    it is always informative when you note in your posts, the amount or lack of color in the leaves, in regard to your particular climate, as i also live in an area that suffers from heat waves where temperatures reach over 100 degree fahrenheit in the summer.

    i do agree with you, that seeing the growth pattern of the entire tree as opposed to only close-ups of it's leaves, gives a much better idea as to it's identity.

    thanks again, mjh ! ^_^

    n. musume
  8. winterhaven

    winterhaven Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    Western Washington, USA
    In theory, I have owned 3 Bonfire Japanese maples. The first one was gorgeouse when I got it with beautiful red color, but it did not survive transplanting - the root ball was miniscule relative to the tree and it just didn't make it. I may have over watered it as well, I had a "helpful" gardener at that time. But the nursery replaced it for free because of the rediculous root ball. But when this tree leafed out it had deep dark red leaves, almost ruby colored. Beautiful, but clearly different from the first tree. Convinced I had not been given a Bonfire, I bought another (yes, from the same nursery, they were the only ones who could get me a Bonfire at all).

    This one I owned for 5 years and at two houses. I loved the tree so much that when I moved I hired a back hoe to dig it up, put it on a trailer and planted it at our new house. It was stunning there as well, but when we moved again I could only take my potted Japanese Maples with me. Sigh.

    When I purchased my Bonfire it was about 5.5' tall. I put it in the ground in Port Angeles, WA in a location where it received direct morning light and filtered afternoon light. It was planted slightly above the surrounding ground in a hole more than twice as big as the root ball and with compost and mulch. I then created a top dressing of mulch around it as big as the tree's dripline, which I enlarged to keep up with the dripline for the next two years. The tree exploaded with growth (for a Japanese Maple).

    It burst out in the spring with red leaves the color of a candy apple red classic car. During the late summer it would green up slightly, but there were always some candy apple new leaves in there as well. And as I remember the leaves turning green would still have a significant red cast to them (a deeper red). So from across the lawn it had a mottled red, pink, lime green coloration that looked kind of like a Fuji Apple. So I had beautiful red color from Spring to Fall. And the thing I liked about the Bonfire's red color is that it was a true red - not burgandy - almost all year long.

    Within the five years (and with a mid life move) it got to be about 10 feet tall. I'd say it more than doubled in girth, height, and width. At the new location (Sequim, WA) it got full afternoon sun and in the late summer the leaves looked a bit washed out. But the year round color (and especially the stunning Spring color) made this most favorite Japanese Maple.

    Regarding it's relatives, I thought I read online that the Bonfire is a member of the Chisio family. So at this new house I've bought a Shindeshojo (love it, but it'll stay smaller) and I've been contemplating a Chisio Improved. I've been reluctant to buy another Bonfire because I don't know if a new tree could live up to my expectations - I think I would always be comparing it to the one I had to leave behind that I had lovingly shaped for all those years. I must say, after writing this, I miss my tree enough that I think I may just have to get another after all.
  9. paxi

    paxi Active Member

    Likes Received:
    St. Louis
    That's funny. I was about to post a very similiar question. Here is a picture of the bonfire just purchased from tricia at essence of the tree. Not the best picture, and I am happy to take another of the leaves closer up. I looked it up in Vertrees who, as above, seems to equate the tree with segai, but my tree doesn't really look much like the Vertrees pic of segai. I know its just a young tree, but the leaves are so tiny - actually the tiniest of my little collection. maybe if tricia is out there somewhere she can tell us a bit more...

    Attached Files:

  10. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Re: Acer palmatum 'Bonfire'

    I am pleased that you described the coloring of
    this Maple well enough and yes, Bonfire is not
    a synonym name for Akaji nishiki. As has been
    errantly touted in Europe that Bonfire and Akaji
    nishiki are the same plant. Mr. Vertrees did
    not own a Bonfire until after the two editions
    of the Japanese Maples books had already
    been published, in the late 80' and got his
    plant from an Oregon nursery source.

    Bonfire is indeed a seedling selection from
    Chishio - well done. I know of a 40+ year
    old in ground plant that is still only about
    4 1/2 feet tall but is roughly 12 feet wide.
    Has not ever been pruned either and yes,
    it is on its own roots. I’ve seen six foot tall
    grafted plants of Bonfire in Oregon.

    This entire group of dwarf and semi-dwarf
    form Maples consisting of Deshojo, Shindeshojo,
    Kondeshojo, Ima deshojo, Chishio, Chishio
    improved, Shishio, Shishio improved, Seigai,
    Seigen, Akaji nishiki, Maiko, Beni maiko,
    Mosen and two derivative variegate forms
    that came about as selections from some
    of them above - Masukagami and Masukaga;
    all share similar leaf characteristics in the
    Spring but the later coloring of the leaves
    and when they color up are similar yet
    they are different from each other. The
    growth habits are also slightly different
    in that some are a nishiki but some
    of these Maples are upright forms that
    can have some longer growth laterals
    than other forms have. As an example;
    the Oregon form of Shindeshojo is not
    a true nishiki in that new shoots can
    emerge up to a foot and longer in some
    of the new growth which seldom is seen
    in the nishiki form plants which have much
    shorter length laterals (distance between
    nodes). Two of the above Maples are
    hime form plants in which the last flush
    of new growth leaves are considerably
    smaller in size compared to the Spring
    growth leaves. A hime should have its
    leaves decrease in size with each flush
    of new growth. Thus, we have some
    Maples elsewhere that have hime in
    their names that are not a hime form
    Maple at all. Whereas most Maples
    that have nishiki as part of their names
    do show nishiki characteristics aside
    from some of the more recently named
    variegates that have come out of Japan.

    Upright forms such as Akaji nishiki
    are misnamed but only people that
    have been around this Maple for
    many years will know it, after they
    have seen for themselves that some
    of the new growth shoots can be a
    foot or more in length ranging from
    every now and then to something
    that is seen almost every year in
    some growing areas. No matter
    how vigorous Bonfire may be we
    never see new growth shoots more
    than six inches in length here but
    we may see these type vigorous
    shoots allover the plant in some
    of this Maples juvenile aged years
    however. The growth rate slows
    down considerably as this Maple
    reaches its mature age, roughly
    15-20 years old.

    I have to concur that the Fall coloring
    of Bonfire is one of the most consistently
    good colored deep reds of the Maples
    listed above (Don Kleim described the
    color to me as being "fire engine red").
    Most of the Maples above turn orange
    cast scarlet red or red cast with some
    orange blends in the Fall. Some can
    have reddish pink in their Fall color (Ima
    deshojo does in my yard), whereas
    Kondeshojo in the misses front patio
    turns scarlet red in the Fall.

    The willowy, upright growth habit of
    Paxi’s plant is more characteristic of
    that Maple being a Seigai, than it is
    a nishiki form Bonfire.


Share This Page