Acer macrophyllum d.w. (Bigleaf Maple) is a large deciduous tree native to the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It is known for its impressive size, broad leaves, and its ecological and cultural significance in the region.
The Bigleaf Maple can reach heights of up to 30 meters (98 feet) and has a wide, spreading canopy that can span up to 15 meters (49 feet) in diameter. Its trunk is often short and stout, with a deeply furrowed bark that becomes more textured as the tree ages.
The leaves of the Bigleaf Maple are the largest among the maple species, with individual leaves measuring up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) in diameter. They have five deeply lobed palmate lobes, resembling a hand with spread-out fingers. The leaves are bright green during the growing season and turn yellow to orange in the fall, providing a colorful autumn display.
In the spring, the Bigleaf Maple produces clusters of small, yellow-green flowers that are not particularly showy. These flowers give way to pairs of winged samaras, often called "helicopters" or "whirlybirds," which are characteristic of maple trees. The samaras mature in the summer and are dispersed by the wind to propagate new trees.
Bigleaf Maples are typically found in moist, lowland forests, often along streams or in shaded canyons. They prefer well-drained soils and are commonly associated with the Douglas-fir and western hemlock forests of the Pacific Northwest. They are also important components of riparian ecosystems, providing shade, stabilizing stream banks, and offering habitat for various organisms.
The Bigleaf Maple is often planted as an ornamental tree in parks, large gardens, and urban landscapes. Its large size, broad leaves, and attractive fall color make it visually appealing. However, due to its size and spreading habit, it may not be suitable for small or confined spaces.