Iconic large leaf of the big leaf maple, Acer macrophyllum, another stunning Northwest Native Plant available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants Nursery in Portland, Oregon
The unique (and edible) flower of the big leaf maple, Acer macrophyllum, another stunning Northwest Native Plant available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants Nursery in Portland, Oregon
The large tree form of big leaf maple, Acer macrophyllum, another stunning Northwest Native Plant available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants Nursery in Portland, Oregon

Big Leaf Maple

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Acer macrophyllum

With huge leaves as big as your head, the Bigleaf Maple brings many delights! In spring, edible 6” long clusters of small yellow flowers dangle from its twigs. The flowers transform into chains of large, fuzzy, double—winged samaras by summer, when the impressive leaves and towering height provide essential shade. In humid areas, the mature bark supports epiphytic moss, lichens, and fern species, while its sturdy branches and trunk are perfect for swings, hammocks, or treehouses.

  • Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous, perennial, overstory/large tree
  • Size at maturity: 90' tall, 70' wide
  • Light requirements: full sun, part-sun/part-shade
  • Moisture requirements: moist to dry soil
  • Growth rate/ease: fast growth rate, easy to grow
  • Bloom time: March – June
  • Wildlife support: adult butterflies/nectar source, bees and other insect pollinators, beneficial insects/pest eating insects, caterpillar host plant/larval food source, hummingbirds (Oregon Flora Project)
  • Native range: It is native to western North America, mostly near the Pacific coast, from southernmost Alaska south to southern California. Some stands are also found inland in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California, and a tiny population occurs in central Idaho. Portland Plant List - yes.
  • Special features & uses: wildlife favorite, erosion control, windbreak, furniture, piano frames, salad bowls, guitar bodies and sugary syrup. Join others in Oregon who are learning the art of Bigleaf Maple sugaring: https://www.oregonmapleproject.org

Gardening with Big Leaf Maple: Big leaf maple will thrive in full to part sunlight and moist to dry, well-drained soil. That said, it tolerates seasonally wet soils as well. When grown in the open, the Bigleaf Maple will form a broad, spreading canopy and a short stout trunk, the perfect overstory element to any woodland garden.

Photo Credit 1: Tara Lemezis

Photo Credit 2: "Acer macrophyllum, Bigleaf Maple" by born1945 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo Credit 3: "Acer macrophyllum, Bigleaf Maple" by born1945 is licensed under CC BY 2.0