Big Leaf Maple – Acer macrophyllum
Other Names: Bigleaf Maple, Oregon Maple, Broadleaf Maple, c'ólhac (Lushootseed), qalam (Kashya Pomo), Paddle Tree (Lakwungen), sáan (Karuk), pal gön' shē (Yuki), pkwo'olo' (Yurok).
Distinctive Characteristics: This is the largest tree of all the maple species. Its deciduous leaves are also the largest of any maple, ranging from 4 to 14 in. (10 to over 36 cm) across, with five deep lobes and large pointed teeth. The seeds are held in double samaras with wings 1½ to 2 in. (4 to 5 cm) long. In wetter climates, they are often covered completely in thick moss and lichens.
Distribution: Native to southernmost Alaska to southern California, mostly near the Pacific coast, as well as inland, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range. An isolated population may occur in central Idaho. Elevation: sea level to 6,000 ft. (1800 m).
Ecosystem: Found within riparian forests, mixed conifer or oak woodlands. Grows with Pacific Madrone, Douglas Fir, Grand Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Port Orford Cedar, Redwood, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, White Fir, Western Redcedar, Black Cottonwood, California Bay Laurel, Coast Live Oak, Oregon White Oak, Red Alder, White Alder, and Willow.
Maximum Age: Approximately 200 years.
Maximum Height and Girth: 115 ft. (35 m) in height; 25 ft. (7.6 m) in circumference.
Animal Community: The leaves are important browse for deer and elk, and the seeds are eaten by squirrels, chipmunks, and some songbirds.
Medicine: An infusion from the bark was used to treat tuberculosis (Yuki, Klallam), and part of the tree was used to treat sore throats and internal conditions (Saanich).
Food: The sprouted seeds were boiled and eaten (Costanoan, , Nlaka'pamux). The inner bark was eaten (Coast Salish). The sap was boiled to make syrup, and shoots eaten raw (Thompson). The leaves were used as a cooking flavoring with deer, seal, or porpoise meat (Cowichan, Saanich).
Fiber: The inner bark was used to make baskets (Concow). The flexible branches were used as a coarse twine warp and weft in making baskets and as coiling thread for sewing (Maidu). Bark was used to make cordage (Cowlitz). Women's skirts were made out of the bark fibers (Concow, Karuk, Tolowa).
Tools and Objects: The leaves, bark, and wood were used for a number of cooking purposes. A disposable basket-like carrier was made for acorn dough by lining inner bark with leaves (Maidu). Leaves were used to line hot rocks for cooking acorn bread in an earthen oven (Wintu). The wood was used for smoking salmon (Swinomish, Snohomish, Chehalis, Quinault), while the leaves were made into mats placed in baskets to cook salmon and other food in earth ovens, and also to cover dried, winter-stored salmon (Karuk, Skagit, Snohomish, Lummi). Wood was fashioned into bowls (Nitinaht, Swinomish) and spoons (Karok, Swinomish). Small pieces of wood were also made into a dice-type gambling game (Pomo, Kashya Pomo) and into cradle boards (Lummi, Swinomish). Wood was used to make paddles and spindle whorls.
Art and Ceremony: Wood was used to make decorative carvings (Haida, Tsimshian, Tlingit); toys, games, and rattles (Hesquiat); and masks and rattles (Nitinaht, Southern Kwakiutl).
Shelter: The limbs were used for house construction (Cahuilla).
Transportation: The wood was made into canoe paddles (Clallam, Skagit, Snohomish, Nitinaht).
Modern Uses: Big Leaf Maple is not highly valued as lumber material; it is often intentionally knocked over and left in place when stands of redwood and Douglas Fir are commercially harvested. The wood is prized by craftsmen to make fine furniture, flooring, musical instruments, carved bowls, and veneer.
Threats and Conservation: Big Leaf Maple is a host for the fungus-like microorganism Phytophthora ramorum, which leads to sudden oak death. Trees may be adversely affected by the pathogen but are usually not killed by it. Otherwise, not threatened.