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.

35 Replies to “Acer x conspicuum ‘Phoenix’ | Pink snakebark tree”

    1. It looks as if you would be bound to notice it, but I nearly passed it by. Amongst all the dogwoods stems, the colour is almost subtle. Almost…

  1. I spotted a red-twigged plant in a plant display and longed to have one for our garden. I soon found out it needed moist soil. It would have done well down by the little stream in my neighbor’s garden. The neighbor moved, and so did that dream of red sticks in the winter.

  2. Someone mentioned coral–that is the color it is now. Pretty striking, but not just the color, the architecture of it and the way those little sprouts are coming up out of the branches (and a deeper, different color as well). It’s always a pleasure to see something like this and be astonished by it.

    1. I like Japanese maples too. I managed to kill my little one this year by leaving it in a pot for too long during a dry spell. I was really shocked to see it obviously dead when I got home.

      1. I used to grow Japanese maples. I enjoyed growing them. However, landscapers use them too much, and put them into situations where they just do not belong, just because they are so trendy. They do not do well here if too exposed.

  3. A tryst with a tree! I can feel the bond from here, and I don’t doubt that this little coral-rhubarb-asparagus-snakeskinned tree will be blushingly watching for you. I admit I laughed about the bad spray-tan, but I don’t think the tree took umbrage (sorry — I couldn’t resist).

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