Acer skutchii – the Rare Mexico Mountain Sugar Maple

Dave Creech

While sugar maple enjoys a sizeable market in the U.S and many cultivars are available, the Mexico mountain sugar maple or skutch maple, Acer saccharum ssp. skutchii, remains relatively unknown. This disjunct wing of sugar maple has endured over 9000 years of divergent evolution apart from relatives in eastern North America (4).  The tree is similar in many respects to Acer saccharum, sugar maple, and Acer saccharum var. floridanum (syn. A. barbatum), the Florida maple, but features larger leaves, and perhaps the biggest samaras found in Aceraceae.  The skutch maple offers opportunities for enhanced growth rate, interesting fall and spring foliage color, alkalinity tolerance, drought tolerance and good adaptation to well drained sunny locations in landscapes of the southern USA, east to west.  Dirr lists 47 varieties of sugar maple in the industry (1).  None include the diverse genetics of this western relative, the skutch maple…

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Acer palmatum – The Aristocrat of Small Trees

Dave Creech

We’ve been growing Japanese maples at SFA Gardens since the mid-1980s and now have over 350 varieties scattered over 16 acres of part shade garden. In 1988, the Arboretum was a small patch of ground next to the Agriculture building.  It wasn’t long before a six-acre bottomland thicket next to LaNana creek was added.  The opportunity to evaluate plants exploded.


img_7692 The Japanese maple collection in the Ruby Mize Garden under high canopy pines

One of the first on the list was Japanese maples.  Keep in mind that, at that time, Japanese maples were relatively uncommon in nurseries or landscapes in Texas.  When encountered, Japanese maples were either seedlings of unknown parentage, ‘Bloodgood’ or ‘Atropurpureum’, the latter being a tree type red leafed seedling.  That was about it.  Well, I found Dell’s Japanese maples (Junction City, Oregon) and a box of 50 small grafted bare-root plants soon arrived – 50 varieties, each…

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Dave Creech


In an attempt to organize all the Botanical Gardens, Arboreta and Public Gardens and Parks under a single umbrella – the Texas Association of Botanical Gardens was created in 1991. The individuals behind the formation of the organization were Paul Cox (retired from the San Antonio Botanical Garden), Henry Painter (Fort Worth Botanical Garden), Linda Gay (retired from the Mercer Arboretum, now at Arborgate) and Dave Creech (SFA Gardens). An agreement was reached that the TABGA would have no by-laws, no committees could be created, and there would be only one annual meeting per year – and the host for each annual meeting had to cover all the costs. Since those early days, annual meetings, usually in February, have been well attended – and provide Directors and staff the opportunity to get together, review the past year, and share in…

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