The Bigleaf Maple

acer05(Courtesy of tanyasgarden.blogspot.com)

Earlier in the semester I came across a picture of a huge maple leaf. Having never seen one so large before, and being the curious scientist our wonderful biology program has trained us all to be, I decided to look further into it. It turns out the tree that bears these large leaves is the bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum).

Native to  North America, bigleaf maple trees grow near the continent’s west coast, primarily in coastal British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California.  There are also some smaller stands in Idaho and central California. There is some speculation that bigleaf maple trees are found in these regions because of their high amounts of precipitation, though I have not been able to find data from scientific literature confirming this.  What is known is that these trees prefer moist soils close to streams, where they are able to form pure stands. Bigleaf maples can also be found mixed with conifers, evergreens, and/or oaks in riparian forests, where they are often one of the dominant species. Commercially, bigleaf maple trees are used primarily in the maple syrup and lumber industries. Saplings serve as a source of food for herbivores.

acer01(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The largest living tree in America is found in Marion, Oregon, though the largest leaves have come from Canadian trees. In 2010 the Guinness Book of Records challenged Canadians to seek out the world’s largest maple leaf – and many tried! All of the top contenders came from bigleaf maple trees in coastal British Columbia. Officially, the largest maple leaf is recorded as being approximately 53 x 52.5 cm, as found by the Tanwar family in Richmond, B.C. However, there’s is another unofficially larger leaf from Victoria, B.C. 61 x 72 cm in size! You can see pictures of the Tanwar family’s find and Marilyn deHaan’s massive leaf, for which she is an unofficial record holder:

acer02

acer03(Courtesy of Guinness World Records)

Acer04.png(Courtesy of Adrian Lam, Times Colonist newspaper)

I hope you enjoyed this short introduction to the bigleaf maple tree! It is a beautiful tree, and as a native Ontarian I have to admit I’m jealous of our neighbours in British Columbia. Maybe I’ll plan a trip sometime…

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