Acer circinatum (Vine Maple) is a species of maple native to western North America, from southwest British Columbia to northern California, always within 300 km of the Pacific Ocean coast.
It most commonly grows as a large shrub growing to around 5-8 m tall, but it will occasionally form a small to medium-sized tree, exceptionally to 18 m tall. The shoots are slender and hairless. It typically grows in the understory below much taller forest trees, but can sometimes be found in open ground, and occurs at altitudes from sea level up to 1,500 m.
The leaves are opposite, and palmately lobed with 7-11 lobes, almost circular in outline, 3-14 cm long and broad, and thinly hairy on the underside; the lobes are pointed and with coarsely toothed margins. The leaves turn bright yellow to orange-red in fall. The flowers are small, 6-9 mm diameter, with a dark red calyx and five short greenish-yellow petals; they are produced in open corymbs of 4-20 together in spring. The fruit is a two-seeded samara, each seed 8-10 mm diameter, with a spreading wing 2-4 cm long.
Vine Maple trees can bend over easily. Sometimes, this can cause the top of the tree to grow into the ground and send out a new root system, creating a natural arch.
It is occasionally cultivated outside its native range as an ornamental tree, from Juneau, Alaska and Ottawa, Ontario to Huntsville, Alabama, and also in northwestern Europe. It is closely related to Fullmoon Maple, Acer japonicum, and Korean Maple, Acer pseudosieboldianum, from eastern Asia, and is an excellent native alternative to these trees.
Vine maples are important trees for wildlife. They provide nesting sites and cover for many birds and mammals. The vireo often weaves basket-like nests that hang in the forks of the branches. Birds use the seed stalks and leaves for nest building. As a food source, squirrels, chipmunks and birds eat the seeds. The caterpillars of the Brown tissue and Polyphemus moths forage on the leaves of their host plant.
- Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
- Water Requirements: Moist
- Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
- Growth Rate: Moderate
- Spreads: No
- Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
- Edible: No
- Mature Height: 20-25ft
- Mature Width: 15-20ft