Acer macrophyllum foliage

Range of Acer macrophyllum
from "
Atlas of United States Trees"
- Elbert L. Little, Jr.

Bigleaf Maple

Acer macrophyllum

California Native
Plant Guide

Acer macrophyllum flowers
and new spring growth

Cronquist System







APG System









Acer macrophyllum is a deciduous tree with a rounded crown. It is said to grow as high as 95 ft. , but 30 to 50 feet is more typical for an open grown tree, and 15 to 20 feet for one in the shade.
Its wood can be used for furniture and its sap can be used to make syrup.




Palmate leaves with smooth margins. The leaves are quite large, up to 10 inches across, with deep lobes.


The bigleaf maple flowers grow in panicles or racemes. In Marin County, they are yellow, but other locations have red or orange flowers. Flowering is often in March or April, sometimes as late as May.


The seeds are in doubles, hanging by a stem from the branch. Each seed has a wing.

Plant Relationships

Related California Species:

Acer circinatum
Acer negundo
var. californicum

Vine maple
Box elder

Related Exotic Species:

Acer rubrum
Acer palmatum
Acer platanoides
Acer saccharum
Acer saccharinum

Red maple
Japanese maple
Norway maple
Sugar maple
Silver maple

Growing Conditions

Natural Range and Habitat:

Bigleaf maple grows throughout almost the entire length of California, north to British Columbia, Canada, and always within 200 miles of the coast. It is more common north of Santa Cruz than to the south.
Bigleaf maple is usually found at the edge of woodlands, particularly riparian woodlands, with one side in the shade and the other in the sun.

Sun and Exposure:

Bigleaf maple is shade tolerant. I rarely, however, see young maple saplings under a deep forest canopy.

Soil and Moisture Requirements:

Acer macrophyllum grows best where the roots can readily find a stable water supply. This is most frequent in riparian zones, but bigleaf maple can grow well on hillsides with favorable soil and parent material.

Horticulture and Restoration

Wildlife Habitat:


Acer macrophyllum is most commonly used in riparian restoration projects, often in the shade.

Uses in Landscaping:

When grown in the full sun in good conditions, it has the typical, sturdy maple tree appearance and can grow fairly large. If grown in the shade, as in a riparian zone, it is much reduced in size, with many small branches.

Horticultural Comments:

Sunset zones 4-17
USDA zones 7-10
They are easy to grow from seed. The seed must be used fresh, because it dries out easily. Stratification is required for germination.

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