Acer x conspicuum ‘Phoenix’ | Pink snakebark tree

Small tree with apricot-pink bark

I think I’m in love with a small tree. Pink might be stretching a point – would apricot-pink be more accurate? Either way, it’s a striking colour for a tree – perfect for growing in a winter garden, when the bark and branches come into their own.  

Small acer in a winter garden

We found it in Bodnant’s winter garden in Wales and it may have been that the late afternoon light was playing a few tricks on the camera. Acer x conspicuum ‘Phoenix’ would tick the conspicuous box – something about it reminds me of a bad spray tan from the 1980s (spray tan plus sunburn, perhaps). An unfortunate look on a person, but great on a tree.

Picture of Acer with plant label

Even the snakebark bit doesn’t faze me. A real snake would have me dashing for the hills, but I wish I had lingered longer to take better close ups of the unusual bark, which is striped pink and silver in places. Never having seen a tree like this before, I had the vague feeling of wondering if it was real or if I was going to find a sign nearby saying ‘Tee-hee – fooled you! Pink Tree sculpture by XXX’.

I’ve since read that this cultivar can reach quite some size when fully grown (up to 6m / 20ft), assuming it doesn’t succumb to our wet winter climate. My fingers are crossed. I’ve made a promise to call back often and see how it gets on – you might call it a tryst with a tree. Mind you, I’ll have to be on my toes to spot it – the bark is greenish yellow in summer and its foliage turns golden yellow in the autumn. Chameleon tree might be a better name, with the added benefit that I like chameleons. They don’t scare me at all.

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