Blue…the color of coolness. The human brain seemingly has a unique fixation with this particular color, as reflected by its prevalence in art and décor. Over the last few years, several online tree nurseries have marketed a truly remarkable piece of landscaping, the Japanese blue maple tree. Questions remain though…are these trees legit?
Japanese blue maple trees do exist, but they are the result of dyes added to the leaves by human intervention. Blue is not a color that naturally occurs in the leaves of Japanese maple trees. The colors that can be found in maple leaves are orange, white, pink, green, purple, or red.
That is what we want to take a look at today, as we dive deep into the recurrence of the color blue in nature. Join in as we explore the “phenomenon” of blue maple trees and everything that is known about them.
Are Blue Trees Real? Can Maples Be Blue?
Many of us have seen the pictures on the internet and even some online smaller retailers selling blue Japanese maple trees. These many times come in the Bonsai (dwarf ornamental versions of trees).
No, sorry to burst your bubble, folks.
There is no such thing as a blue tree or trees with blue leaves…in nature. There are flowers on some trees that can be blue and on rare occasions there are some plants with a slight violet hue. As for blue, there is no natural occurrences of blue leaves, bark, or branches that have this color.
What are marketed as “blue maple trees” are actually dyed versions of the three subspecies of Acer palmatum, the Japanese maple tree. The most popular dye used for these trees is food coloring. Some dealers may reveal the truth behind the so-called miracle tree but some scammers may take advantage of misinformed customers for a few extra bucks.
Images of blue maple trees depict these dyed trees. In other cases, the pictures are doctored photos of regular maples.
The dealers often market these trees as “Bonsai” trees or they may sell “Bonsai seeds” that will allegedly into a blue maple tree. It is important to note that Bonsai is the artform of miniature tree rearing. It is not a species or subspecies of a tree, blue or otherwise, so be wary of “Bonsai” dealers.
For a true purple colored leaf on a maple tree in your own yard, flower bed, or garden, I suggest this Purple Ghost Japanese Maple 2 Year Live Tree from Amazon.
If you would like a true beginner’s version of a Japanese Bonsai tree, I recommend this Bonsai Tree Starter Kit you can get on Amazon.
What Colors Do Japanese Maples Display?
Real Japanese maple leaves may be orange, white, pink, green, or red depending on location and season. On rare occasions, purple maple leaves may be encountered in nature. Purple maples are real and can be acquired from reputable nurseries.
Blue is, unfortunately, not one of the colors adopted by Japanese maple leaves. If you must have one, you may go for a dyed one. Just understand that these are not natural, no matter what some sellers may claim.
The secret to the blue leaves of a Japanese maple tree is normally food coloring. These simple dyes are used in a wide variety of applications and can truly turn the leave blue. Just be warned that this is a temporary effect and once the tree looses its leaves in the Winter, they will not come back with the blue tint again in the Spring.
The dye will need to be reapplied to new leaves to achieve the same look each year, and if the plant is outside, many times per year.
The sun can have devastating effects on dyes of any kind, washing out the color. Not to mention, Japanese maples have natural colors of their own that will attempt to come through depending on sun and water conditions.
The more tricky sellers will simply alter the photos accompanying the product in marketing and on packaging. There is no other way to see this. These sellers are trying to trick consumers.
Some People Do Get Deceived
There are some people simply looking for a fun hobby and see pictures of these trees and think, “Blue! I want a blue Bonsai.” Whether for stress relieve or pure enjoyment of helping something grow, their intentions are pure.
Though for many peddling these, their intentions are not. They are openly misleading people.
This is sadly the goal of many of these sellers. They either alter the pictures or dye the leaves to dupe unsuspecting hobbyists and customers. This type of thing is dishonest. Don’t be fooled.
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Are There Trees With Blue Leaves?
Again, no. It doesn’t matter the species of tree you are looking at, there are no examples of blue leaves on any of them.
Blue is not a natural color for tree foliage in nature. Any blue leaves you may encounter are dyed with some coloring agent. The closest color to blue that naturally occurs in leaves is purple. This can be found in purple Japanese maple trees and others.
If the person(s) trying to sell you a blue tree fails to disclose this information, then chances are you are being roped into a scam.
The closest thing to blue in trees is purple and lavender found in species like azalea trees, Bougainvillea trees, Japanese maple trees, and several others.
Is Blue Found On Parts Other Than Leaves In Plants And Trees?
Blue simply isn’t found in the leaves of any species of tree. However, blue is a common color among various flower species. What are some of the ways you can find blue in the wild?
Hydrangeas Can Be Blue
Hydrangeas are one of the popular species that sometimes come in shades of blue. Hydrangea plants reach full bloom in early spring, which will breathe new life into your yard after a long winter. The strongest bloom in old wood branches will be seen in July.
To see your blue tinted blooms in their full glory, Hydrangeas take a bit of care. According to the University of Illinois agricultural extension department, Hydrangeas need proper amounts and timing of pruning, fertilizing, and watering to insure plentiful blooms.
Blue In Periwinkle Bushes
Periwinkle bushes also bloom to reveal sweet-smelling blue flowers. In addition to its pretty appearance, periwinkle is a good ground cover because it spreads quickly and doesn’t grow too tall.
Though the leaves themselves like maple trees will not naturally be blue, these flowers can add a pop of blue to your flowerbeds or garden for at least part of the year.
Blue Butterfly Bushes
Empire blue butterfly bush is another cool plant with blue flowers. The flowers are a rich source of nectar and their sweet scent serves as a come hither to a wide variety of colorful critters.
Not only can you have your desired blue color through their flowers, but in some cases you may attract blue butterflies and moths with them. This could be a two for one blue bonus.
Of course, who can forget forget-me-nots and their classic sky blue petals? The yellow stamens are a lovely contrast that will brighten up your summers.
Flowers are going to be your main source of the color blue in your beds or gardens. Forget-me-nots can be a good solution.
Other plants with blue flowers include:
- Desert bluebells
- Morning glories
- Blue orchids
- Blue poppies
- Blue daisies
Some Blue Plants Are Not What They Seem
Another word of caution here, as the same type of unscrupulous activity that can happen with Japanese maple trees can occur with flowers and other plants. I have seen every unnatural color known to man on roses. Many people either don’t care, which is perfectly fine, or are not aware that roses do not naturally come in blue.
Roses like carnations don’t posses the ability to produce the blue color.The University of Adelaide
Adelaide, South Australia
Carnations are another flower that is commonly dyed. Again, if you are only interested in a temporary color for some occasion, then there is no harm in dying them. It is important to be clear and up front though with those wishing to cultivate or grow blue carnations.
There are many plants that dealers are willing to dye, usually with food coloring. Just be aware that like the leaves of Japanese maple trees, these are neither natural nor permanent. If you are wanting them for a special occasion then they will fit the bill nicely.
But, if you are under the impression that blue colored leaves and sometimes petals are natural and will reoccur as a plant grows, this may not be the case. Be sure to check the species of the plant in question and confirm that blue is a natural color they are able to exhibit.
Is Blue A Color In Nature?
As we’ve seen with the flowers mentioned above, blue is a natural color that can be found all over. Though it is not found in the leaves of any tree, there are other instances where a blue hue can be found.
Of course, flower bushes aren’t the only living things that may feature the color blue. Various animals, big and small, are wholly or partially adorned with the color.
To be honest, blue is one of the rarer colors in nature. Yet, here are some places you can find it.
The insect world just might be the most blue-rich arena in the animal kingdom, with countless species sporting the hue.
The common damselfly and great blue skimmer, members of the dragonfly family, are always a sight to behold as they take to the skies in impressive blue blurs.
We also have the cobalt milkweed beetle, whose body features dazzling freckles of blue. This is one of the most common beetles in the western United States.
Chalybion californicum (aka the Blue Mud Wasp) is a ruthless predator that is always on the prowl for juicy spiders. This beautiful creature’s blue body is sleek and aerodynamic like an exotic sports car.
We can’t forget about butterflies either. There is an almost endless list of blue butterfly species, and more and more keep getting discovered. You have your Melissa blues, Chalkhill blues, Menelaus blue morpho, common blue, large blue, small blue, Holly blue, silvery blue, Pipevine swallowtail, pea blue, and Mexican blue wing. There’s more but you probably get the picture.
Moving away from insects, we have arachnids. These include a wide range of spiders, scorpions, and crabs.
Spiders featuring the color blue include the cobalt blue tarantula, Poecilotheria metallica, and Psalmopoeus irminia. You also have Cuba’s very own alacran azul or “blue scorpion”, a frightening little monster. Regular beachgoers on the East coast might also be familiar with the Chesapeake blue crab, a common delicacy.
Blue also features in the reptilian world. The blue-tailed skink is one of the most common garden lizards around. The eastern blue-tongued lizard, native to Australia, is another one.
As for snakes, you have the blue racer snake, blue-bellied black snake, and the Malayan coral snake.
Amphibians like the blue poison dart frog are world-famous for their brutal toxins. The blue-spotted salamander is another cool amphibian, and it is a common pet.
Blue is also common in birds. We have blue jays, indigo buntings, blue grosbeaks, western bluebirds, mountain bluebirds, blue tits, and more. Let’s not forget the most flamboyant blue bird, the peacock.
Diving into the deep, we can take a look at various species of blue-colored fish. We have blue peacock cichlids, royal blue tangs (aka Dory from Finding Nemo and Finding Dory), yellowtail blue damselfish, and the neon blue goby. The list is endless.
The blue shark is one of the most common species of shark. This pacey predator can be found patrolling deep tropical waters in search of squids, schools of herring, and even sea turtles.
Blue is not so common in mammals, though various primates like mandrills and several monkeys have blue features.
Dog lovers will argue that the Siberian husky’s piercing blue eyes should be included in the mix and we don’t disagree.
Finally, we have the world’s largest mammal, which also happens to be the largest animal on earth (ever)…the blue whale.
The blue whale is incredible in every way imaginable. It can reach lengths of over 100 feet and weigh more than 199 tonnes (438,720 pounds)!
The Final Touches On Blue Japanese Maple Trees…
The Japanese maple is one of the most popular ornamental trees both in its full size form or in the art of Bonsai. They are naturally very expressive with the color of their leaves and if kept in the proper shade vs sun positioning, deep colors are very noticeable.
What maple trees are not capable of doing though is naturally displaying blue hues of any type. When blue leaves are seen on these trees it is the result of some sort of dying process and human intervention.
Though there is nothing wrong with these temporary solutions to having blue leaves, it is important to know that not only are these blue hues not natural, they are also not permanent.
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