Bigleaf Maple

Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)
Acer macrophyllum

Acer macrophyllum (Bigleaf or Oregon Maple) is a large deciduous tree with the biggest leaves of any maple. It can grow to nearly 100 feet tall, but more commonly reaches 50-70 feet. It is native to western North America, mostly near the Pacific coast, from southernmost Alaska south to southern California. Some stands are also found inland in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California, and a tiny population occurs in central Idaho.

The palm-shaped leaves are typically 6-12 inches across, with five deeply-incised lobes. The flowers are produced in spring in loose dangling clusters, greenish-yellow with inconspicuous petals. The fruit is a paired, winged, V-shaped samara.

Bigleaf maple is a great wildlife tree. It provides nectar for pollinators, food for the young of tiger swallowtails and mourning cloak butterflies, and shelter for cavity-nesting birds. Mature trees are often covered with moss and ferns which are home to many invertebrates. These miniature ecosystems far above the forest floor capture and filter rain water, and provide food and nest material for birds and small mammals.

Cultivation and Uses

Maple syrup has been made from the sap of bigleaf maple trees. While the sugar concentration is about the same as in sugar maple (Acer saccharum), the flavor is somewhat different. Interest in commercially producing syrup from bigleaf maple sap has been limited.

The lumber from this tree has diverse uses, such as furniture, piano frames and salad bowls. Highly figured wood is not uncommon and is used for veneer and guitar bodies.

  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 90ft
  • Mature Width:70ft