Acer Palmatum Shishigashira
I can't believe I have a shishigashira in my backyard!
I bought the unusual maple many years ago (it was expensive! and there were only two in the lot). It's now about 6 feet tall and trying to get taller. I took a close-up shot of its unusual leaves this spring. You can see the leaves curl one on top of the other and give the impression of a shaggy lion's mane. A few of the stems are showing new growth.
The tree sits in a shady spot under a large overhanging oak, and only gets sun part of the day. But it seems to be thriving and is not at all straggly.
2009 Update: Recently, I found out that the tree should not sit in wet ground, but in well drained soil. Mine didn't do well in the heavy rains of spring 2009, and half of the tree died, with only the bottom branches showing leaves. I guess I'll have to trim it back later, but will wait to see how it recovers this spring.
Here's what I found about the history of this cultivar:from World Plants
"After 125 years in cultivation, the famous Lion's Head Maple is still acknowledged as one of the best and most unique Japanese maple cultivars. It is a compact, slow-growing shrub, usually to around 6', though taller trees are possible with good cultivation. By 'compact', we mean that the leaves are closely packed on the twigs, and the twigs closely-packed on the branches. This leads to a tufted look: clusters of leaves alternating with leafless areas of branch. The leaves themselves are small, deep green, and crinkled, thickly textured. No wimpy sunburning here. The transition to fall color is like caterpillar to butterfly, with the deep reds and oranges completely changing the visual effect.This is a good tree for the landscape, container, or bonsai. The name is a reference to a mythical Japanese lion."
For more pictures of the Lion's Head Maple, visit Wood Water Garden, for Shishigashira, Lion's Head Maple