Herbs & Plants

Acer macrophyllum

Botanical Name: Acer macrophyllum
Family: Sapindaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales
Genus: Acer
Species: A. macrophyllum

Common Names: Bigleaf maple or Oregon maple

Acer macrophyllum is native to Western N. America – southern Alaska to California. It grows on variety of soil types, on the banks of streams, in rich bottom lands and on rocky slopes of mountain valleys.

Acer macrophyllum is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 12 m (39ft) at a fast rate. It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen in October.

It has the largest leaves of any maple, typically 15–30 cm (5.9–11.8 in) across, with five deeply incised palmate lobes, with the largest running to 61 centimetres (24 in). In the fall, the leaves turn to gold and yellow, often to spectacular effect against the backdrop of evergreen conifers.

The flowers acer macrophyllum produces in spring in pendulous racemes 10–15 cm (4–6 in) long, greenish-yellow with inconspicuous petals. The fruit is a paired winged samara, each seed 1–1.5 centimetres (3?8–5?8 in) in diameter with a 4–5-centimetre (1 5?8–2-inch) wing.

In the more humid parts of its range, such as in the Olympic National Park, Big Leaf Maple’s bark is covered with epiphytic moss and fern species.


Cultivation & propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, it usually germinates in the following spring. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours and then stratify for 2 – 4 months at 1 – 8°c. It can be slow to germinate. The seed can be harvested ‘green’ (when it has fully developed but before it has dried and produced any germination inhibitors) and sown immediately. It should germinate in late winter. If the seed is harvested too soon it will produce very weak plants or no plants at all[80, 113]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on until they are 20cm or more tall before planting them out in their permanent positions. Layering, which takes about 12 months, is successful with most species in this genus. Cuttings of young shoots in June or July. The cuttings should have 2 – 3 pairs of leaves, plus one pair of buds at the base. Remove a very thin slice of bark at the base of the cutting, rooting is improved if a rooting hormone is used. The rooted cuttings must show new growth during the summer before being potted up otherwise they are unlikely to survive the winter.

Edible Uses:
The sap contains a certain amount of sugar and can either be used as a drink, or can be concentrated into a syrup by boiling off the water. The syrup is used as a sweetener on many foods. The concentration of sugar is somewhat lower than in the sugar maples (A. saccharum). The tree trunk is tapped in the early spring, the sap flowing better on warm sunny days following a frost. The best sap production comes from cold-winter areas with continental climates. Inner bark. Eaten in small quantities with oil. No more details are given but inner bark is often dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread. The leaves, when wrapped round food during baking, impart a nice flavour to the food. Yellow flower clusters – raw. They are sweet with nectar. Seeds – sprouted and then boiled. The sprouted seeds are generally bitter, but the young shoots are quite sweet and juicy. The seeds are about 6mm long and are produced in small clusters.

Medicinal Uses:
An infusion of the bark has been used in the treatment of TB. The raw sap has been used as a tonic.

Other Uses:
The leaves are packed around apples, rootcrops etc to help preserve them. A sticky gum obtained from the buds in spring has been mixed with oil and used as a hair tonic. A fibre obtained from the inner bark is used for making scouring pads, rope and crude dresses. It was harvested in the spring and was also used in making baskets. Young stems are used as coarse twine warp and weft in the manufacture of baskets. Wood – light, soft, not strong, close grained. It is highly valued for timber, furniture and indoor use and is also used for carving bowls, veneer etc. It makes an excellent fuel, producing a hot smokeless flame.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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