Plants of Promise: Koto No Ito Japanese Maple

Latin Name: Acer palmatum 'Koto no ito'

Common Name: Koto No Ito Japanese Maple (And you thought "common name" meant easy to pronounce)

Description: Small, slow-growing deciduous tree, 4' to 5' H x 3' to 4' W

Cultivation: Sun/part shade, hardy to -10 F

Where I Found It: Swanson's Nursery in Seattle last fall, on sale for around $60

Why I Love It: Japanese maples are one of my favorite groups of trees. And for a girl who loves to take pictures of flowers, that's saying a lot. They have a wide variety of leaf shapes and colors; turn stunning shades of yellow, reds, and oranges in the fall; and have a wonderfully elegant shape to their branches. A 20-year-old Japanese maple tree that has been allowed to grow into its natural form is a beautiful sight to behold. If you haven't stopped to take notice of one lately, you really ought to. And if you need me to point one out, I'd be more than happy to do so.

This week's Plant of Promise is a very special Japanese maple called Koto No Ito, a name which means "Strings of a Harp." I say special because it's my tree, and all my plants are special to me. But it is also different from some of the other Japanese maple varieties because of its leaf shape: The leaves are deeply cut into very thin lobes, which is why the tree was given the name Strings of a Harp. This picture shows just how tiny the leaf lobes can be:

The leaves emerge in bright yellow-green in the spring, turn to a darker green for the summer, and then turn orange and yellow in the fall. Even after 30 years, the Koto No Ito will only reach 12 feet tall, so it is a great container tree or specimen planting for a small garden. And the thinly cut leaves give the tree a very soft appearance with a lot of movement in the wind.

All in all, you really need to get one for yourself. Okay, okay, not everyone has to get the Koto No Ito variety. But I am definitely of the opinion that no garden is complete without at least one Japanese maple of some kind.

Here is a website I found with information on many Japanese maple varieties and pictures of their leaf shapes and colors, including the Koto No Ito: East Fork Nursery . If you aren't yet convinced of your need for a Japanese maple, you might just change your mind after scrolling through these pictures!


  1. I know that you posted this in May, but I just noticed it under your "Search by Topic." A maple that I fell in love with is the lace maple, or something like that. The leaves are very thin and delicate.


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