Acer macrophyllum Pursh
Bigleaf maple, Big-leaf maple
Aceraceae (Maple Family)
USDA Symbol: ACMA3
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 CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Lobed
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
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 InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May
Bloom Notes: Flowers follow leaves in Spring.
DistributionUSA: CA , OR , WA
Native Distribution: Cismontane CA, n. to B.C.
Native Habitat: Higher altitude stream banks & moist canyons; below 5000 ft.
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
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.
BenefitUse 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
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Native Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
PropagationPropagation Material: Seeds , Softwood Cuttings
Description: Use fresh seed.
Seed Collection: The winged fruit of maples is called a samara. Seed is usually not extracted from the samara.
Seed Treatment: Stratify seeds for 2 months.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Do not prune in Spring.
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
BibliographyBibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 1218 - Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources (2006) Anderson, M. Kat
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Acer macrophyllum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Acer macrophyllum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Acer macrophyllum
MetadataRecord Modified: 2008-10-18
Research By: TWC Staff