The Q&A Archives: Serpentine Tree

Question: Could you tell me more about the serpentine tree i just purchased? Do I have to train in to curve?


Answer: Although many trees or shrubs are referred to as serpentine in growth habit, I'm only familiar with a Serpentine maple. Acer davidii 'Serpentine' is also called snake bark maple. This attractive small tree is a native to central China. It has lush, green foliage and new growth is purple/red, fading to green with fine, snakelike white stripes when mature (hence the name). It makes a an unusual, ornamental tree for a sheltered woodland garden. Provide full sun or partial shade and well drained, acid soils. A multi-stemmed small tree, this will reach a height of 6-8' with an equal spread after 15 years. You won't need to train the tree, it will grow curved branches all on its own.

If your new tree is not a maple, I think you'll need to look more carefully at the plant tag or at the label on the nursery pot to find the botanical name of your tree. The term serpentine tree means it has been trained into a serpentine shape. If you can't determine the kind of tree you have, take a photo or a branch to your local nursery and ask someone there to identify it. Then we can guide you in its care. Best wishes with your landscape!

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