Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ • Lion’s Mane Maple

Acer • Maple • カエデ • 楓 • kaede

[The text below was prepared by SJG Plant Committee for docent maple training in fall 2013]

One is located in area N. This slow, upright grower forms a multi stem shrub or small tree, 10 – 15 feet high with a spread of 5 to 7 feet.

The bright green crinkled leaves grow in dense clusters along the branches. They have 5-7 lobes, and are 2” long. The flowers are reddish-purple.

The Shishigashira name comes from the costume worn during the lion’s dance to exorcise evil spirits. Sometime this tree is labeled ‘Ribesifolium’ referring to the resemblance of the leaves to those of Ribes alpines. One of the last maples to color in the fall, the leaves turn scarlet or golden yellow burnished with red.


SJG • 10/22/13 – Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ • Lion’s Mane Maple, Area N, top north path


SJG • 10/22/13 – Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ • Lion’s Mane Maple, Area N, top north path, LEAVES

From MonroviaShishigashira Japanese Maple – Heavily curled green leaves give an interesting texture to this compact, shrubby tree and become purple-red with orange-red patterns in fall. Popular for bonsai, as a container subject and in small gardens. Deciduous. […].

From Iseli Nursery (informative website on dwarf conifers & Japanese maples):  Japanese Drama,
The Shishigashira Japanese Maple

One of the more stately green upright Japanese maples is the Shishigashira. It is widely recognized by maple lovers but not widely planted due to its relative rarity in the trade. Due to its slow growth and “awkward” sparse appearance when young, it frustrates many growers. Its high price in garden centers is due both to the extra years needed to produce a fine specimen and a much higher cullage rate than the more easily produced maples such as, Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ and Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’. It is a valuable addition to the garden and deserves a rich focal point. Shishigashira is the perfect patio container tree and very popular for bonsai and seikei in Japan. I would like to share some history of the plant with you.

Shishigashira translates into lion’s head. The fullness of the tree’s broadly columnar growth habit, with it’s densely layered leaves presents a vivid image of the lion’s mane, especially in its autumn coloration. Shishigashira Japanese maple actually consist of two very old cultivars, Acer palmatum ‘Mejishi’ and Acer palmatum ‘Ojishi’, whose names are based on the mythological female and male lions in Japanese drama. The Shishigashira costume is worn performing the Shishimai or lion dance,which dates back as far as the twelfth century. This dance is performed to exorcise spirits and invite good luck. Both cultivars are of the Acer palmatum subspecies amoenum, but are now commonly listed under the ‘Dwarf’ grouping in references.

‘Mejishi’, the female lion, is the more common type and is usually found in the trade simply as Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’. The leaf of ‘Mejishi’ is very similar to Ribes alpinum, the alpine currant. Because of this likeness, it has been marketed in England as Acer palmatum ‘Ribesifolium,’ often misspelled ‘Ribescifolium.’ In the past, Shishigashira Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ – autumn foliage Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ – autumn foliage was grown in The Netherlands under the names Acer palmatum ‘Crispum’ and ‘Cristatum’, referring to Shishigashira’s crispate leaves. These names have confusingly shown up in the United States along with the badly chosen synonyms ‘Crispa’ and ‘Cristata’. […]


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