Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum
Aceraceae – Maple family
“Acer” is the classical Latin name for maple. “Macrophyllum” aptly describes the big (“macro”) leaves (“phyllum”) of this native maple.
The leaves have five deeply cut lobes and may be 8 to 12 inches in width, larger than leaves of any other native or introduced maple. The fragrant yellow blossoms of April and May develop into double-winged fruits by fall. The winged seeds (samaras) are paired but gradually become separated upon maturity. In fall, wind gusts transform the samaras into whirling, spiraling airfoils to the delight of children and squirrels, the latter collecting and opening the samaras for seeds. In the forest, the stout main trunk and vertical side branches stretch upwards to a height of about 100 feet. The base of the trunk is often cloaked by a thick layer of moss, forming a unique niche for licorice ferns. Though the trunk and leaves are of great magnitude, close inspection of the leaves and samaras reveals a very fine venous pattern displaying an unexpected and delicate beauty.
Native inhabitants found bigleaf maple wood exceptional for carving bowls, dishes, platters, spoons, canoe paddles, and cradleboards. Some used the bark for making rope, and the leaves for lining cooking pits. Big leaf maple trees today serve as large shade trees for parks and big yards. They provide food and shelter for birds and squirrels, and even produce syrup that is reportedly close in quality to that of sugar maple (5-51).
Information courtesy of “The View From Springbrook Park; an Illustrated Natural History” by Ed Chinn.
Photos taken by Laura Tanz
Sponsored by Friends of Springbrook Park, Lake Oswego, OR