Bigleaf Maple (Macrophyllum)

The Bigleaf Maple (Macrophyllum) is generally described as a perennial tree. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Bigleaf Maple (Macrophyllum) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Bigleaf Maple (Macrophyllum) will reach up to 100 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 30 feet.

The Bigleaf Maple (Macrophyllum) is usually not commercially available except under contract. It can be propagated by bare root, container, cuttings, seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below 7°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: The inner bark was often dried and ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups or mixed with cereals when mixing bread. A fiber was obtained from the inner bark and used in making ropes, baskets, and crude dresses (Gunther 1981). The large leaves were used for storing food to help preserve them or burned in steaming pots to add flavor to food.

An infusion of the bark was used in the treatment of tuberculosis (Moerman 1998). A sticky gum obtained from the buds in the spring was mixed with oil and used as a hair tonic (Ibid.).

Economic: The light brown wood is used in making furniture, cabinets, paneling, musical instruments, and veneer. In Washington and Oregon, it is used in the interior finish of buildings, for axe, and broom-handles (Sargent 1933).

Wildlife: The seeds provide food for squirrels, evening grosbeaks, chipmunks, mice, and a variety of birds. Elk and deer browse the young twigs, leaves, and saplings.

Agroforestry: Bigleaf maple can be planted on sites infected with laminated rot for site rehabilitation. It can also accelerate nutrient cycling, site productivity, revegetate disturbed riparian areas, and contribute to long-term sustainability.

General Characteristics

General: Maple Family (Aceraceae). Bigleaf maple is a native, long-lived medium to large sized deciduous tree that often grows to eighty feet tall. The leaves are simple, opposite, and very large between fifteen to thirty centimeters wide and almost as long (Farrar 1995). The flowers are yellow, fragrant, and produced in noddling racemes appearing with the leaves in April or May. The fruit is paired, 2.5 - 4 centimeters long, and brown with stiff yellowish hair. The bark is smooth and gray-brown on young stems, becoming red-brown and deeply fissured, and broken into scales on the surface (Preston 1989).

Required Growing Conditions

Acer macrophyllum is distributed around the coast region of southeastern Alaska, on the West Side of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada from British Columbia through most of California. For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Acer macrophyllum generally occurs in coarse, gravelly, dry to moist sites, often mixed with red alder, western redcedar, Douglas fir, and western hemlock. It attains its best development near borders of foothills, low mountain streams, and in alluvial river bottoms. Bigleaf maple is an extremely flood tolerant species.

Cultivation and Care

Propagation from Seed: Propagation by seeds is best when seeds are sown as soon as they are ripe in a cold frame. Pre-soak the stored seeds for twenty-four hours and then stratify for two to four months at 1-8ÂșC. The seeds can be harvested when they have fully developed but before they have dried and produced any germination inhibitors and sown immediately. If the seeds are harvested too soon they will produce very weak plants or no plants at all (McMillan 1985).

Propagation from Cuttings: Cuttings of young shoots should be done in June or July. The cuttings should consist of two to three pairs of leaves and one pair of buds on the base. Cuttings should be placed in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss. They must not be allowed to wilt. Trim the cuttings below the lowest node to remove the lower leaves leaving three or four at the tip. A rooting hormone may be applied to improve rooting before planting. Insert the cuttings in a rooting medium up to half their length so the leaves do not touch each other. The cuttings will root in two to three weeks, after which they can be potted (Heuser1997).

General Upkeep and Control

Seedlings should be placed into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grown there until they are twenty centimeters or taller before planting them into their permanent positions. Pruning should be done in the winter or early spring to remove the weakest branches to allow for the passage of more light.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Tree
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Contracting Only
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 100
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Cuttings, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature 7
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.8–7 pH
Precipitation Range 24–24 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Minimum Frost-Free Days 240 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA