Big Leaf Maple - Acer macrophyllum

The Big Leaf Maple tree (Acer macrophyllum) is one of the few Maple tree species that grow native in the Northwestern United States. The images in this post are from a stand of trees growing along the Multnomah Falls visitor trail that leads up to a bridge at the base of the main water fall (except for the leaf picture above which is from a young tree that I found on Mount Tabor Park in Portland).

The image above is of a cluster of the Big Leaf Maple´s winged seeds (Samaras) that detach in pairs and are blown by the wind like little helicopter blades. As you can see from the picture there are quite a few in each cluster.

Some of the leaves were starting to turn a bright yellow color although the only decent shot was of one of the leaves I found lying on the ground. It apprears to me that the leaves are larger and have sharper points on young trees while the leaves on more mature trees are a bit smaller and have more rounded tips. At any rate the leaves are quite large with some measuring 12 inches in diameter.

The Big Leaf Maple tree is often found growing allong streams and near waterfalls. I have seen them all along the Columbia River Gorge as well as near the waterfalls of Silver Creek Falls State Park. Their proximity to the falls and the constant water spray that is produced produces and moss and fern covering that is typical for this tree species. On some of the trees in is practically imposible to see the bark of the tree.

I did however find a few trees where the moss did not cover the whole trunk and was able to take this picture of what the bark looks like on a mature tree that was about 2 feet in diameter.

This sign (below) is located in the Multnomah falls visitor center reads...
"This deciduous tree has the largest leaves of any native in our area. The leaves are commonly six to ten inches long with five lobes. Palmate veins radiate from the petiole. Clusters of yellow-green flowers appear in spring. The winged seeds are wind dependent for dispersal and are often seen floating like "helicopters" in the fall winds."

Other Maple trees that I have posted about are the Vine Maple, the Red Maple, the Boxelder Maple, Sycamore Maple and the Montpellier Maple.


  1. Hi! Thank you for the very interesting and informative post! Readers of my blog tried to identify a tree shown in my last post "Where The Green Thumb Lives". I thought it was a Big Leaf Maple. Helen from Toronto found your blog. After comparing the pictures, we can be sure that the huge leaves on my photographs belong to a Big Leaf Maple. Thanks again! Have a happy Holiday Season!

  2. Dear Dan,

    I am contacting you again regarding obtaining permission to use the image of Acer macrophyllum in a paper for New Phytologist. Sorry again if this isn't the best way to contact you (I wasn't able to find your contact info anywhere else).
    My name is Adam Runions. I am a Post-Doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany.

    I am writing today with regards to a manuscript I am preparing for the scientific journal New Phytologist, in collaboration with Prof. Miltos Tsiantis and Prof. Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz (University of Calgary, The paper will be open access, and uses computational models grounded in biological studies of leaf form development to generate a diverse range of natural leaf forms.

    In preparing our manuscript, we came across your wonderful blog. We were particularly intrigued by the following image of a Acer macrophyllum on this page:
    which corresponds extremely well to one of our simulated leaves.

    Given this, we were wondering it would be possible to receive your permission to adapt this image in our paper. We would, of course, gratefully acknowledge you and website as the original source in whatever manner you deem most appropriate.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Best regards,
    Adam Runions

    1. Sure, you can use the image. Thanks for asking.

  3. Hi Adam,
    I love the info and pictures. I have served as a high school biology teacher for 36 years, and I am currently working on a "leaf library" - taking dried, pressed leaves and laminating them onto labeled, glossy photo paper. The library will serve as a reference resource for future use. I live in Bristol TN. I would love to get leaves from western trees - such as the big leaf maple and vine maple, etc. - to add to the collection. Do you know where I might obtain some? I have searched on the internet without much success. Thanks for any info that you can provide. My contact information follows:
    Larry D. Booher
    924 Highway 126
    Bristol, TN 37620
    e-mail: (the 1st letter is a small-case L, not the number 1).
    I hope your day is filled with blessings!
    - Larry