Tree Spotlight – No. 2 : The Oregon Maple

Acer_macrophyllum

  • Acer Macrophyllum, the big leaf maple or Oregon Maple is a large deciduous tree in the genus Acer.
  • It can grow up to 48.89 meters (160ft 5in) tall, but more commonly reaches 15-2- meters (50-60 ft) tall. It is native to western North America, mostly near the Pacific coast, from southernmost Alaska to southern California.
  • It has the largest leaves of any maple,

  • It has the largest leaves of any maple, typically 15–30 cm (5.9–11.8 in) across, with five deeply incised palmate lobes, with the largest running to 61 centimeters (24 in). In the fall, the leaves turn to gold and yellow, often to spectacular effect against the backdrop of evergreen conifers.

  • The flowers are produced in spring in pendulous racemes 10–15 cm (4–6 in) long, greenish-yellow with inconspicuous petals. The fruit is a paired winged samara, each seed 1–1.5 centimeters (3⁄8–5⁄8 in) in diameter with a 4–5-centimeter (1 5⁄8–2-inch) wing.

  • Color/Appearance: Unlike most other hardwoods, the sapwood of maple lumber is most commonly used rather than its heartwood. Sapwood color ranges from almost white, to a light golden or reddish brown, while the heartwood is a darker reddish brown. Silver Maple can also be seen with curly or quilted grain patterns.

  • Grain/Texture: Grain is generally straight, but may be wavy. Has a fine, even texture. The growth rings tend to be lighter and less distinct in Soft Maples than in Hard Maple.

  • Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable to perishable in regard to decay resistance.

  • Workability: Fairly easy to work with both hand and machine tools, though maple has a tendency to burn when being machined with high-speed cutters such as in a router. Turns, glues, and finishes well, though blotches can occur when staining, and a pre-conditioner, gel stain, or toner may be necessary to get an even color.

  • Odor: No characteristic odor.

  • Allergies/Toxicity: Bigleaf Maple, along with other maples in the Acer genus have been reported to cause skin irritation, runny nose, and asthma-like respiratory effects. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

  • Pricing/Availability: Should be very moderately priced, though figured pieces such as curly or quilted grain patterns are likely to be much more expensive.

  • Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

  • Common Uses: Veneer, paper (pulpwood), boxes, crates/pallets, musical instruments, turned objects, and other small specialty wood items.

  • Comments: Big leaf Maple is appropriately named, as its leaves (shown below) are the largest of any maple, commonly reaching an overall width of 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) across. Big leaf Maple is a commercially important hardwood timber for the United States’ west coast, where it is virtually the only commercial maple species in the region.

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