Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Acer macrophyllum

Bigleaf maple, Big-leaf maple

Aceraceae (Maple Family)

Acer macrophyllum (Bigleaf maple)
Small to large tree with broad, rounded crown of spreading or drooping branches and the largest leaves of all maples. Big-leaf maple is usually a 20-75 ft. tree. Though it occasionally reaches 100 ft., it is generally much smaller in cultivation. Lateral branches soar upward from the massive, squat trunk, becoming huge, vertical limbs in older specimens. The bark is gray to reddish-brown and furrowed. Dark, glossy-green, deciduous foliage, often more than a foot in width, turns yellow-orange in fall. The common and scientific names describe the very large leaves.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Lobed
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Raceme
Fruit Type: Samara
Size Notes: Height 30-100 feet, spread 30-50 feet or more, diameter 2 to 4 ft.
Leaf: Blue-green turning reddish-yellow in the Fall. Dark green above and lighter green below.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Double samaras with wings, green turning brownish, tan when ripe. 1 3/4 to 2 inches long.
Size Class: 36-72 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May
Bloom Notes: Flowers follow leaves in Spring.


Canada: BC
Native Distribution: Cismontane CA, n. to B.C.
Native Habitat: Higher altitude stream banks & moist canyons; below 5000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Cool, moist soils.
Conditions Comments: This plant needs a spacious setting. Underplanting is often difficult. The high productivity of seeds can make this an invasive species.


Use Ornamental: A handsome shade tree and particularly showy in autumn, it is popular on the Pacific Coast.
Use Wildlife: Important forage for deer, squirrels and other wildlife.
Use Food: Maple sugar can be obtained from sap and maple flowers are sweet and edible and can be used in salads. Young shoots can be eaten raw in the spring.
Use Other: Coastal peoples use the wood to make dishes, paddles, the inner bark for baskets, ropes. Thin strips of inner sapwood used to make clothing by various indigenous peoples. Wood used for weft in basketry and for lances, counting sticks, and toys by indigenous Californians. The only western maple with wood of commercial importance, it is used for veneer, furniture, handles, woodenware, and novelties.
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes

Last Update: 2008-10-18