The versatility of Acer palmatum lies in its hundreds of cultivars. A. palmatum ‘Saoshika’ makes a great understory plant, generally growing more like a shrub than a tree and reaching only about 10 feet in height. This Japanese maple sports star-shaped leaves in a shade of bright green that lights up the shady areas. That light green of spring darkens as the weeks pass by, and in the autumn, its color changes to golden yellow. Japanese maples are slow growers, which is why they are a favorite in bonsai. This maple was photographed at the Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden in Orono in spring 2012.