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Is a Japanese Maple Tree Toxic?

Updated February 21, 2017

Japanese maple trees are not toxic. In fact, the tree's leaves are eaten as part of some Japanese dishes and have no adverse health effects.

Definition

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) are native to Japan, Korea and China. Gardeners and horticulturists prize these trees for their autumn colours and beautiful foliage. Japanese maples are typically small and perfect for small gardens or for growing in containers. Tree experts often refer to them as Acers.

Types

There are more than 1,000 cultivars (or varieties) of Japanese maple trees. Similar species include Acer duplicatoserratum, Acer japonicum (Downy Japanese Maple), Acer pseudosieboldianum (Korean Maple), Acer shirasawanum (Fullmoon Maple), and Acer sieboldianum (Siebold's Maple).

Considerations

None of these organisations list the Japanese maple (or Acer palmatum) or any of its similar species as toxic: ASPCA, Cat Fanciers Association (CFA), University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Library and Cornell University's Department of Animal Sciences.

Misconceptions

The Japanese maple may not be toxic, but a certain fungus that grows on the bark of red maple trees is; however, the Japanese maple comes from different parts of the genus than red maple, and this fungus does not grow on the Japanese maple.

Warning

It has been confirmed that red maple is toxic to horses. This has led some to consider all maple trees toxic; however, there have been no reports of Japanese maples being toxic to either animals or humans.

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About the Author

Curtis Seubert started writing professionally in 2008. He has taught writing at universities in the USA and in Japan. Since 2000 he has lived in Japan, teaching English, writing and playing bass. He holds a Master of Arts in English literature with an interdisciplinary emphasis in quantum mechanics.