Growing the Big Leaf Maple

The Proper Latin Name Is Acer macrophyllum

Branch and leafs of big leaf maple tree (acer macrophyllum), close-up
Martin Ruegner/Photodisc/Getty Images

For a maple tree with large leaves, the big leaf maple fits the bill. Each leaf on this deciduous tree can be up to two feet wide! In fall they'll turn lovely shades of yellow or yellow-orange, adding color to your garden. You can collect sap from this tree to make maple syrup.

Latin Name

This maple tree is classified as Acer macrophyllum and belongs to the Sapindaceae (soapberry) family.

Common Names

In addition to big leaf maple, you may see this tree called Oregon maple, bigleaf maple or broadleaf maple.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones

This tree grows best in USDA Zones 5-9. It originally comes from Western North America.

Size and Shape of the Big Leaf Maple

This tree can be anywhere from 20 - 100' tall and wide depending on the environment. The shape is often rounded at maturity.

Exposure

This tree is able to grow in full sun, partial shade and full shade.

Foliage/Flowers/Fruit

The leaves of this species live up to the name and are larger than those on any other maple species. They feature the lobes and palmate shape found on most maple trees. Each leaf can be more than a foot across. Sometimes leaves can even be two feet across! In autumn they shift to orange-yellow or yellow.

Flowers are produced from March to May and hang in different types of clusters called panicles or racemes. Blooms are yellow on this monoecious tree.

Like all maples, there is a winged fruit called a samara. The outside of the fruit is hairy.

Design Tips

Plant this away from your house or walkways. The roots spread and can crack concrete or grow into plumbing pipes.

If you want a variety that has red leaves for a few weeks when they first unfurl, the 'Rubrum' is a good choice.

Growing TipsĀ 

This tree does best in moist, well-draining soil.

You can plant the seeds in the fall to start new trees.

This will provide a natural stratification (cold) period that the seeds need to germinate.

Maintenance and Pruning

You should not prune this tree in spring or early summer because as with the other maple trees, it is prone to bleeding sap if cut too early in the year. There should not be much needed beyond making sure there is a central leader and taking out any dead, diseased or damaged branches.

Pests & Diseases of the Big Leaf Maple

Possible pests include:

  • Beavers
  • Carpenter worm (Prionoxystus robiniae)
  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Nematodes
  • Powderpost beetles (Various genera)
  • Roundheaded borer (Synaphaeta guexi)

Possible diseases include:

  • Armillaria root rot
  • Butt rots
  • Verticillium wilt