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Bigleaf Maple Acer Macrophyllum

Bigleaf Maple Growing Size

The Bigleaf Maple, scientifically known as Acer macrophyllum, reaches a substantial size of 30 meters in height and 12 meters in width. This tree, also known as Oregon Maple, grows quite quickly, exhibiting a hardness rating of 6.

Flowering occurs in October, with the seeds ripening by April. Unique in its structure, the plant’s flowers are monoecious, with both male and female flowers present, and they rely on insects for pollination.







30 metres


12 metres


Western N. America - southern Alaska to California.

Bigleaf Maple Soil Information

Oregon Maple is versatile and can grow in various soil types ranging from light and sandy to medium loamy and even hard clay. Well-drained soil is vital for its growth, and it can thrive in different pH levels, including:

  • Acidic soils with a pH less than 6
  • Neutral soils with a pH between 6 and 8
  • Basic soils with a pH greater than 8

Additionally, Oregon Maple prefers moist soil conditions.

Ideal Bigleaf Maple Planting Locations

The Bigleaf Maple is adaptable, thriving in both semi-shaded or fully sunlit areas. It is found in diverse environments such as stream banks, fertile bottom lands, and rocky mountain valley slopes. Ideal planting locations for this tree include:

  • Woodland gardens
  • Canopy tree arrangements

Acer Macrophyllum Cultivation Details

Bigleaf Maple is relatively easy to cultivate, thriving in well-drained, moist soil, including heavy clay, and requiring at least moderate sunlight. While chlorosis may occur in alkaline soils, maples are generally not very particular about soil pH.

Young plants grow rapidly in the wild, slowing down after 40-50 years, with a potential lifespan of around 275 years. While hardy, a severe winter following a mild autumn can result in damage.

This tree is highly ornamental but may inhibit the growth of nearby plants as most maples are poor companion plants.

Bigleaf Maple Edible Uses 

  • Edible Rating: 3/5 The Bigleaf Maple's sap, though lower in sugar concentration than that of sugar maples (A. saccharum), can be consumed as a beverage or boiled into syrup. This sweet syrup adds flavor to various dishes. Optimal sap production occurs in cold-winter, continental climates.

The tree's inner bark can be dried and ground into a powder for use as a soup thickener or bread additive. Its leaves, when used in baking, add a unique flavor to food.

Yellow flower clusters, sweet with nectar, can be enjoyed raw, while the seeds can be sprouted and boiled for consumption. Although the sprouted seeds may be bitter, the young shoots are often sweet and juicy, offering an interesting taste contrast. The seeds are about 6mm in length and grow in small clusters.

  • Inner bark - the bark that is found just beneath the tough outer bark of trees and shrubs.
  • Sap - usually of trees and usually but not always used as a drink.
  • Seed - includes nuts, cereals, peas and beans.
  • Sweetener - includes sugar substitutes.

Bigleaf Maple Medicinal Uses*

* See disclaimer

Medicinal Rating: 1/5

An infusion of the bark has been used in the treatment of tuberculosis. The raw sap has been used as a tonic.

  • TB - Plants used in the treatment of tuberculosis
  • Tonic - Improves general health. Slower acting than a stimulant, it brings steady improvement.

Bigleaf Maple Propagation Techniques

For optimal results, seeds should be sown promptly after ripening inside a cold frame. Typically, germination occurs the subsequent spring. If using preserved seeds, immerse them in water for a day, then expose them to a cold period (stratify) for 2 to 4 months at temperatures between 1 and 8°C. Keep in mind, germination may take time.

You can also collect the seeds while they're 'green' - meaning they're fully matured but haven't dried or formed any germination inhibiting substances. These should be sown straightaway, with germination expected by the latter part of winter. However, harvesting them prematurely could yield frail plants or none at all.

Once seedlings achieve a considerable size, transfer them to individual pots. Let them grow until they surpass 20cm in height before moving them to their ultimate location. In this genus, a method called layering, which spans around a year, is frequently successful.

When taking cuttings from juvenile shoots during June or July, ensure they possess 2 to 3 pairs of leaves and an additional bud pair at the base. Enhance the chances of rooting by delicately removing a sliver of bark at the base of the cutting; the use of a rooting hormone can further improve this process.

It's crucial for the rooted cuttings to exhibit growth in the summertime prior to being shifted to pots. Otherwise, they may not endure the cold winter months.

Other Uses of Bigleaf Maple

The Bigleaf Maple's leaves have a remarkable quality of preservation; they can be wrapped around fruits like apples and various root crops to keep them fresh for an extended period. Additionally, a sticky gum harvested from the spring buds can be blended with oil to create a nourishing hair tonic.

The tree's inner bark provides a fibrous material that finds utility in creating scouring pads, ropes, and even rudimentary clothing. Traditionally harvested during the spring season, this fiber has also been fashioned into baskets. Young stems of the tree serve as coarse twine for both warp and weft in basket-making.

The wood of the Bigleaf Maple is characterized by its light, soft texture and close-grained nature. While not particularly strong, it is highly prized in the woodworking industry for indoor furniture, timber, and decorative carvings, including bowls and veneers.

Besides its structural applications, this wood also serves as an excellent fuel source, burning with a hot and smokeless flame. 

  • Basketry - Plant used in making baskets and other items such as chairs. Includes plants that are only used as an ornamental addition.
  • Fibre - Used for making cloth, rope, paper etc.
  • Fuel - Usually wood, plant materials that have been mentioned as being a good fuel.
  • Hair - Plants used as hair shampoos, tonics, to treat balding etc.
  • Preservative - For food, or for treating wood, ropes etc.
  • Scourer - Used for cleaning pots, pans, plates etc.
  • Wood - A list of the trees and shrubs that are noted for having useful wood.


Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.

  • Bean. W.
  • Author: Bean. W.
  • Publisher: A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
  • Date of Publication: 1981

Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest.

  • Hitchcock. C. L.
  • Author: Hitchcock. C. L.
  • Publisher: A standard flora for Western N. America with lots of information on habitat etc. Five large volumes, it is not for the casual reader.
  • Date of Publication : 1955

The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.

  • Huxley. A.
  • Author: Huxley. A.
  • Publisher: Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
  • Date of Publication: 1992

Wrapping up Bigleaf Maple Acer Macrophyllum

Bigleaf maple grows big and tall and is a beautiful stand-alone ornamental tree. 

Its wide range of applications exemplifies the tree's utility beyond just ornamental and culinary uses.

If you have a large area where you would like a slow growing feature tree, give the Bigleaf Maple a go.

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Nathan Schwartz

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