Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)

South of Music Building Map

This and the red alder (Alnus rubra) dominate the deciduous forests of the western slope of the Cascade Mountains. The enormous leaf of this vigorous, fast-growing tree will be familiar to all local hikers. Acer macrophyllum is the largest of the maple family; a specimen over 150 ft. in height was growing in Mt. Baker National Forest in 1989, and another with a trunk diameter of over 10 ft. can be found near the town of Hamilton, on the Skagit River. Compared to these monsters, ours are piddling. However, wait a few centuries!

The forestry industry considers bigleaf maple a weed; it is a fast-growing "stump-sprouter" that can out-compete more economically desirable trees, such as Douglas fir. However, it furnishes wood that is useful for many specialty purposes, including the making of musical instruments. It also sometimes will produce burls that are highly valued in the making of some kinds of furniture.

Bigleaf maples are at home from British Columbia into northern California, especially along the wet side of the mountains.