Information on Acer palmatum 'Pygmy'

Discussion in 'Maples' started by JOS, Sep 23, 2004.

  1. JOS

    JOS Member Maple Society

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    Dublin, Ireland

    Can anybody help with information (origin, hardiness, eventual height, spring/autumn colour, special characteristics etc.) on acer palmatum 'Pygmy', please. I recently purchased this plant from a garden centre in the south west of Ireland. It is a green cultivar with small leaves. From the little information on the plant label, it seems to be a genuine dwarf cultivar. Vertrees mentions it under the category of 'cultivars not yet assessed' and I can find little or nothing on the Web. Most of the hits from search engines related to 'Red Pygmy', 'Coonara Pygmy' or 'Sharp's Pygmy'.

    Many thanks,

  2. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Based on the size and shape differences of the
    three Maples you mentioned, this one should
    be easy for others to help but you may need
    to describe your Maple better or supply some
    pictures of it. There is a fourth Maple that
    used to be sold in the nursery trade as being
    'Pygmy' but I am not committing, in part due to
    your wanton no response in the 'Crippsii' thread,
    until I can see what your plant looks like or have
    a better sense of what your plant may look like.

  3. JOS

    JOS Member Maple Society

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    Dublin, Ireland
    Thanks, Jim. I'm about to purchase a new digital camera and will post some photos as soon as I can. You mention about a fourth acer being sold in the nursery trade as 'Pygmy'. On a general point, does the name 'Pygmy' refer to a recognised cultivar in its own right or to a 'generic' class of dwarf green cultivars ? Based on the label, I think that my plant has come from a Dutch nursery rather than an Irish nursery but have no idea beyond that.

    Apologies for the delay in replying on the 'Crippsii' thread but I've been away for several weeks.

  4. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Hi JOS:

    Before I look at your post there is something I want
    to pontificate a little about. First off, it is not that I
    was singling you out as many of us have made
    comments and then no one responds back to us. I
    generally will not write everything I may know of a
    subject in the first post, sometimes not even in the
    second post. I am waiting for the thread starter to
    get back to me and if there seems to be no apparent
    interest I probably will not respond again.

    Most forums exist for everyone which means that
    anyone can post a question and there may be others
    that will join in and try to answer the question as best
    as we can. Sometimes dealing with generalizations
    or hope that some of us may know the answer, prior
    to us having the information to be more certain, makes
    dealing with the initial question tougher for us. There
    are people that will respond to questions on Maples
    and there are many more people that choose not to
    respond to a thread at all. Those that do respond are
    not responding for themselves but are trying to shed
    light on an area of concern to someone else. Many
    times there are others that share the same issue in
    their minds that have not asked the same question to
    a forum. In dealing with varieties of Maples there
    will be some assessments made on behalf of a
    responder that may not be completely accurate but
    at least the responder tried to offer some sort of help
    or info as opposed to the number of people that just
    want to be observers.

    I fully expected my comment of "wanton no response"
    to be edited out by the UBC staff as it can be construed
    as being personal in nature but that was not my intention.
    I did it to check and see if you were sincere or not. With
    my knowing that answer, I'll be more than glad to help
    you with your Maple.

    In regards to Pygmy, at one time in the nursery trade the
    female Lion form of Shishigashira was sold as being Pygmy.
    I learned that plant as being Pygmy long before I had the
    Vertrees Maple book. It becomes almost essential that we
    see the leaves of your plant to know if the leaves are crinkled
    in shape, the degree of how much they are crinkled, how
    large the leaves are and what color the leaves are right
    now. Even Red Pygmy is green for us most of the year
    here. Coonara Pygmy colors up better in the Spring. The
    Fall color here is not spectacular at all. Sharp's Pygmy is
    green most of the year and the leaves for a dwarf are
    good sized, larger in size than a Coonara Pygmy's leaves
    are and show varying degrees of a crinkle in the leaf. Show
    me some pics of your Maple and I'll tell you what I think it

    A further note:

    There is also another Linearilobum similar to Red Pygmy but
    was green leafed instead that was sold in Oregon as Pygmy
    back in the middle to late 80's but it was just a seedling from
    Koto no ito that grew to a nice small, tight, bun shaped Maple.
    It was not a seedling from Koto ito komachi however. There
    is also a dwarf form of Koto ito komachi that to my knowledge
    was not ever named. Honestly, we never knew what to call it
    other than dwarf Koto Ito but it originally came to us from a
    certain select grower in Canby, Oregon.

    Yes, Pygmy can refer to the size and relative shape of the tree
    rather than a specific name of Japanese Maple. Hard to know
    what the thinking was of the originating nursery but you are
    probably correct to think that your Maple came into Ireland
    from elsewhere.

  5. JOS

    JOS Member Maple Society

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    Dublin, Ireland

    Many thanks for your very informative reply. As you say, posting a photo would be very useful and I will certainly do this. I think that the specimen I have is certainly not a Linearilobum and there is no noticeable crinkle as in 'Shishigashira'. The leaves are more classic Palmatum or Matsumurae but small in size, more like Coonara, I'd say. One question which you might be able to clear up for me; is 'Pygmy' a registered cultivar name or one of these names loosely applied within the trade.

  6. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Hi JOS:

    Pygmy, the female Lion form of Shishigashira, was not
    ever registered per say but enough nurseries carried it
    that to many nurseries saying the name Pygmy meant
    that Maple. For a very long time and what has caused
    a lot of confusion as a result is that for many years no
    Japanese Maple was officially registered here. Many
    Maples were named for the nursery trade and because
    of that trying to pinpoint where a particular Maple had
    its origin here is not well documented at all. In some
    cases the origin of the Maple was not ever meant to be
    documented. As long as people in the nursery trade
    knew which Maple the nursery was calling it, then
    there was enough people around the US that would
    eventually know it by name and later by sight. Very
    unscientific and one of the valid reasons the Europeans
    have had a tough time with us and our Maples here.
    Even in Japan many Maples did not have official
    names before they were shipped here. Knowing
    that drove a few of the purists in plants crazy trying
    to find out what the Japanese called their Maples
    as in many cases there were more than one name
    applied per Maple such as Toyo nishiki and Goshiki
    Kaede. The other problem issue was trying to learn
    where the Maple originated in Japan, whose nursery
    did it come from or who selected the seedling or found
    it in the wild and later propagated it.

    If the Maple you have is not a Linearilobum form,
    nor a form of Shishigashira, a Sharp's Pygmy nor
    a Coonara Pygmy then hopefully someone will
    give us some insight as to what the Maple is.
    It is not uncommon for a nursery to name a
    Maple on its own as we've seen it done in Pines
    and Spruce whereby a nursery in its sales catalog
    will misspell a name and then "everyone" wants the
    plant expecting it to be different than the Pine
    or Spruce they already have. I know of one
    nursery now that in its sales catalog is selling a
    Koshiki Kiyohome. Wait until someone in this
    forum asks how to grow their new Maple or we
    see it for sale in two to three years in a nursery
    or offered in an online auction! If we know what
    a Goshiki Kiyohime is or looks like we already
    know the Maples are the same but not enough
    people will know that. I've been a proponent of
    people knowing their plants and the above is a
    good example why it is so important. Some people
    may think I am blowing smoke but I've probably
    been around the block more often than they have
    with Maples and I have a better idea what to look
    out for than most people do. We've seen a similar
    thing in antique Art Glass whereby people have
    paid $30,000 for a vase thinking it was of French
    origin made in 1890, to later find out their faked
    vase can be purchased in a Miami shop for $300
    that was made last year in Romania! Buyer beware
    has a little more significance in such a case, doesn't
    it? Things are not that extreme in Maples but there
    are others hoping we do not know our plants and
    then can say that their misspelling was just oversight
    on their part. Not so, when it has been going on for
    3-5 years or longer.

    The Linearilobum Pygmy came from a nursery
    in Oregon that sold it to a few other nurseries
    that grew it on and later decided not to propagate
    it. Today, that same Maple would be all over
    the place. Is the name Pygmy just? No, it isn't
    but once again not enough current day people
    know what the first so-called Pygmy was in
    relation to which Maple it was, that many
    nurseries all knew as being Pygmy before
    there was a clarification made that the Maple
    was indeed a form of Shishigashira instead.
    Still, the name Pygmy, although not ever
    registered applies to that particular Maple.
    The "old guard" in Maples would not have
    any disagreement there now as they knew
    which Maple it was and in many cases had
    propagated it and sold it to others as being
    Pygmy. I bought my Maple as being Pygmy
    back in 1983.

    Best regards,

  7. Elmore

    Elmore Active Member 10 Years

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    North Alabama USA

    'Mejishi' is the female form of 'Shishigashira'. It is not really female but the name refers to the mythical lion as female. It is the more common form. A larger growing form. Mejishi means female lion.
    'Ojishi' refers to the male mythical lion. The 'Ojishi' form of 'Shishigashira' is a much more compact and less common maple.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 28, 2004
  8. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Hi Elmore:

    You brought up an excellent point but not everyone
    agreed in the names of the male and female Lions
    in how they corresponded to the forms. The names
    you mentioned are correct but depending on who
    one talked to, the larger form is the male Lion and
    the smaller dwarf form was the female Lion. I had
    this discussion with Don more than once and he told
    me that both Koichiro Wada and Jiro Kobayashi said
    the dwarf form was the female form of Shishigashira.

    I did make a glaring mistake though. I mentioned
    Goshiki Kiyohime of which there was one at one
    time but I've never seen it. Where I messed up was
    in the spelling of Koshiki Gotohime and adding in
    Kiyohime. Just a ways off I think but that was a
    mistake that I felt needed to be cleared up. I checked
    the catalog later to be sure about the Koshiki Gotohime
    spelling after I sensed I was more than just a little wrong.

  9. Elmore

    Elmore Active Member 10 Years

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    North Alabama USA

    Hey Jim, just parroting the info in the book. A few years back I took scion from a 'Shishigashira' in a large container. Those in the middle picture (above) may be them. Anyway this maple struck me as being different than any of the other 'Shishigashira' that I had found. It was about 4' tall and about 2.5' wide. Full like a shrub from top to bottom. When I was grafting them it seemed like the leaves were a little smaller also. I tagged them 'Ojishi' so that I could at least keep track of them and discern any different growth habits than the other ones that I grafted from taller, more open trees.
  10. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Hi Elmore:

    I know where the info came from. I asked Don about Pygmy
    and what J.D. wrote a second time soon after I had J.D.'s book.
    I have no problems with what you wrote. There is a 3rd form
    of Shishigashira that starts out a small, bun shaped Maple and
    then will grow to be a willowy, rather bushy upright. The leaves
    are the smallest of the 3 forms and has the most crinkling in the
    leaves. It will show lots of red (some leaves are almost totally
    red) and gold in the Fall, even for us here. That form is my
    personal favorite for Shishigashira.

    The nursery that did the misspelling are also the ones that
    started the Picea Backeri spelling of which there is no such
    thing to us purists. There was a Goshiki Kiyohime as I've
    seen pics of it in 2 old Japanese nursery catalogs from many
    years ago. Koichiro Wada had it but Don could only bring
    in one plant of it due to limited supply from what I was told.
    Don rather soon after getting it here lost his plant and did not
    get another one.


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