Acer macrophyllum - big-leaf maple

Family: Aceraceae
Wetland Indictor Status: FACU
Big-Leaf Maple 


 Fruits of the big-leaf maple 


General Species Description

A common deciduous tree in the west side of the cascades in the pacific northwest, the Big-leaf maple can reach 30 m.  The crown may be as wide as the tree is wide. 


Leaves are 20-35+ cm wide and long, opposite, shiny green above and pale underneath.  The leaves are deeply and unequally palmately 5-lobed, with the terminal lobe sometimes 3-lobed 


The inflorescence is a thick drooping raceme, 10 - 15 cm long.  Each raceme bears 10 - 50 flowers.  The flowers are either male or have both male and female organs. 


The fruits are propeller-like, paired, winged samaras in the shape of a V.  The wings are about 3.5 cm long and 1.25 cm wide. 


The Big-leaf maple lives in a variety upland sites sites and in transitional zones between wetlands and uplands.  They can be  found from sea level to an elevation of about 1000 m. 


In addition to occuring west of the Cascades in the northwestern United States, big-leaf maples can be found near water in eastern Washington.

Similar Species

The large size of the leaves distinguishes it from several opposite-leaved shrubs found in similar habitats.  The vine maple is similar but varies in size and lobes.

Ecological Value

The large canopy of the big-leaf maple provides great habitat for nesting birds and an important substrate for epiphytes such as licorice ferns and mosses.  Honey bees use the flowers for nectar.  Some birds eat the samaras in the winter.

Human Value

The wood is currently used in furniture building, veneer, and flooring.  Sugar can be made from the sap.  It also makes an excellent firewood when seasoned.


Cooke, S. S., ed. 1997. A Field Guide to the Common Wetland Plants of Western Washington & Northwest Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society and Washington Native Plant Society. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle WA, 1pp.
B. J. Guard. 1995.Wetland Plants of Oregon &Washington. Lone Star Publishing, Richmond WA, 239pp.

Hitchcock, C. L. and A. Cronquist. 1973. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle WA, 730pp.

This page was created by: Mike Houston

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