81024It is native from the extreme southern tip of Alaska to the extreme southwestern corner of California, but not many of us will see bigleaf maple, Acer macrophyllum, in our neighborhoods. It is planted only rarely, particularly where winters are mild. Relative to other maples, its roots can be more aggressive, and its shade can be darker, so is likely to interfere with lawn and other plants.

Mature trees in exposed situations can get more than fifty feet tall and quite broad. Old wild trees that compete with other trees in a forest can get three times as tall! The big palmate leaves from which the name is derived are about half a foot to a foot wide, and can get a two feet wide on the most vigorous or shaded growth. They turn a nice golden yellow in autumn, even in mild climates.

Bigleaf maple is like the sugar maple of the West. The sap can be processed into maple syrup and sugar. The wood is made into furniture and musical instruments. The very ornamental wood known as bird’s eye maple is derived from burl growth of various maple specie, particularly bigleaf maple. Bigleaf maple is uncommon in landscapes only because it is so aggressive and big.

11 thoughts on “Bigleaf Maple

    1. Really? I happen to like it because it is the biggest and boldest native maple we have here. However, I think that the yellow color is rather bland compared to what maples do in the East. I suppose that it is more colorful up North than here.

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    1. Yes, but not here. Those in western Oregon and western Washington are quite mossy, even in refined landscapes. The mossiest that I have ever seen were not in landscapes, but were in the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula. There are other plants with bigger leaves, but it is odd for such a big leaf to occur in California where the weather can be so arid.


    1. Thank you. It is an old picture from last year. They are not so yellow yet. They can get slightly more orange, but to me, they are not as colorful as other trees in other regions.


    1. They are pretty distinctive. The name says it all; ‘bigleaf’ maple. Some sycamore leaves can get big too, but they have a completely different set of characteristics.


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