A maple with unusually big leaves.

Its natural coastal range extends from the extreme southern corner of Alaska to the southwestern corner of California. Another inland range occupies foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Bigleaf maple, Acer macrophyllum, is the most common and prominent native maple here. However, it prefers the seclusion of forested riparian situations at higher elevations locally. It is rare in urban gardens.

Bigleaf maple is best in the wild anyway. It dislikes the aridity of most of the urban and suburban areas of California. (San Jose is in a chaparral climate. Los Angeles is in a desert climate.) Roots of bigleaf maple are potentially aggressive, especially if irrigated generously. They easily displace pavement. Nonetheless, where climate and circumstances allow, bigleaf maple is a grand tree.

Wild trees grow as tall as a hundred fifty feet within forests where they compete for sunlight. Well exposed suburban trees should stay lower than forty feet, while extending their canopies broader than tall. The big and palmately lobed leaves are mostly more than six inches wide. Foliage turns yellow in autumn, and is abundant as it falls. Self sown seedlings often grow under mature trees.

6 thoughts on “Bigleaf Maple

    1. Too hot? The bigleaf maple lives as far south as San Diego County. Silver maple, if irrigated, does reasonably well in the high desert. Japanese maples can be difficult here, not because of the heat, but because of the aridity.


  1. Our most ‘famous’ maple is Acer grandidentatum, the bigtooth maple. It’s found in a few discrete locations in the state, particularly at the Lost Maples Natural Area. Leftovers from the ice age, they provide real fall color for the state (in good years) and making pilgrimage to see them is as common as ‘going to see the bluebonnets’ in spring.

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    1. That one seems to resemble the sugar maple. I am not familiar with it, but was surprised to see where its range is. I remember the name from when I was in Oklahoma. One small colony lives in the southwest corner of the state.

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    1. I can not explain why bigleaf maple is not more popular in other regions. I was told that the roots are just too aggressive. They grow wild in the Pacific Northwest, but are not commonly planted intentionally. There are cultivars of it, but I have never actually seen any of them.

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