Amur Maackia Is a Small Garden Tree with Big Leaves

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Virtues: The Amur maackia is a small tree with a rounded canopy and little need for maintenance. Its interest comes from its unique upright flowers and its large leaves, which are made up of smaller leaflets, giving the tree a fine texture. These compound leaves are the major point of interest of this compact tree, with its bark an interesting feature for winter.

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Common name: Amur maackia

Botanical name: Maackia amurensis

Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Flowers: The whitish, fragrant flowers appear in six-inch-long clusters that stand up straight. These give way to long, flat seed pods. The flowering time is early summer. Its flowers and its seed pods both reveal its status as a member of the legume family.

Foliage: The foliage of the Amur maackia is a compound leaf composed of 7, 9 or 11 leaflets that appear in pairs until the tip of the leaf, which is a single leaflet. The oval leaflets can be 2 to 4 inches long, while the compound leaf can be up to 12 inches long. The leaves look grayish green as they emerge in spring. They unfold to medium to dark green from spring through summer and they can turn a dull yellow to orange/tan in the fall, or simply drop off while still green. Deciduous.

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Habit: A deciduous tree reaching roughly 20 to 30 feet tall in gardens and cultivated landscapes, with upright to arched, spreading branches that make a rounded canopy 20 to 30 feet wide. Older trees develop attractive coppery exfoliating bark that looks interesting in the winter as it peels to reveal greenish bark underneath. Younger trees have non-peeling bark that is very shiny.

Origin: Eastern Russia, northeastern China and Korea

How to grow it: Site Amur maackia in full sun or part shade, in soil with moderate moisture and fertility and good drainage. It is adaptable to soil type. It does not typically require pruning or other regular maintenance. USDA Zones 4–7. Two cultivars are hardy to Zone 3: MaacNificent, which also boasts a vase shape and yellow fall foliage; and Summertime, a University of Minnesota introduction that remains just 12 to 15 feet wide.

Image credits: 

Tree: By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT - Own work, CC BY 3.0

Detail: By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT - GFDL