Vine Maple (Circinatum)

The Vine Maple (Circinatum) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub or vine. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Vine Maple (Circinatum) has green foliage and inconspicuous green flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Vine Maple (Circinatum) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Vine Maple (Circinatum) will reach up to 20 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 15 feet.

The Vine Maple (Circinatum) is not commonly available from nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -13°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: Native Americans used the straight long stems for making baskets used for general household utility such as carrying wood and fish. They also carved the wood into numerous household utensils such as spoons, bowls, and platters. The sap contains a certain amount of sugar and that used as a drink or concentrated into syrup by boiling off the water (Facciola 1990). Vine maple was used occasionally for tool handles of axes, and frames. This species was used by the Indians of the northwest coast for the bows of their fishing nets (Sargent 1933). The saplings were used for babies’ cradles.

Medicinal: The wood was burnt to charcoal and mixed with water and brown sugar then used in the treatment of dysentery and polio (Moerman 1998).

Wildlife: The seeds and buds provide food for squirrels, chipmunks, and numerous birds. Cattle and sheep eat vine maple leaves. During the summer months the leaves and twigs are a preferred food of black-tailed deer and elk.

Agroforestry: Vine maple is used in forested riparian buffers to help reduce stream bank erosion, protect water quality, and enhance aquatic environments.

General Characteristics

General: Maple Family (Aceraceae). Vine maple is a native, deciduous shrub or small tree that ranges between ten to twenty feet. The leaves are round to cordate, usually seven to nine centimeters long, pointed, and double toothed. The flowers are white petals in small loose clusters emerging with the leaves. The bark is thin, smooth, and greenish becoming bright reddish brown.

Required Growing Conditions

Acer circinatum occurs in the Pacific Northwest ranging from the Cascade Mountains to southern British Columbia to northern California. For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Vine maple occurs most frequently on moist soils along the banks of streams and wet sites. It commonly occurs with Douglas fir, Pacific dogwood, big leaf maple, and western hemlock. This species prefers shady areas but can tolerate the sun. It sometimes grows in clumps or patches (Farrar 1995).

Cultivation and Care

Propagation from Seed: The seeds should be gathered and immediately stratified for 90 days at 41º F to break seed dormancy. Sow the seeds in containers or seed trays containing a slow release fertilizer. Firm the medium and place the seeds thinly and evenly on top and cover with medium (Heusser 1997). Seedlings should be placed into individual pots when they are large enough to handle.

Propagation from Softwood Cuttings: Cuttings should be done in the spring or early summer in the early morning. Take cuttings about five to ten centimeters long, just above the node. Put cuttings in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss (Heuser 1997). 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 (Ibid.). A rooting hormone may be applied to improve rooting before planting. Insert the cuttings in the rooting medium up to half their length so the leaves don’t touch each other. The cuttings should root in two to three weeks, after which they can be potted (Ibid.).

General Upkeep and Control

Constant pruning is needed to avoid long internodes. Watering may be reduced in the winter but the soil should be kept evenly moist.

Vine maple sends out slender arching branches in the wild. These form roots when they touch the ground and the plant thereby forms large impenetrable thickets often several hectares (Sargent 1965).

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Tree, Shrub, Vine
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability No Known Source
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 20
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Green
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -13
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 5.5–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 24–24 inches/yr
Planting Density 700–1100 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Minimum Frost-Free Days 200 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance None
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No

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