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Maples Trees 101: What You Need to Know

Maple trees are some of the most popular trees across America and some species are even specific to the Pacific Northwest. This means that in many instances, maples are an ideal tree to plant in your yard as native trees often thrive the best. In fact, three of the 13 species from North American originate here and those are the ones you’ll want to consider first when choosing new trees for your landscape.

Here’s what you want to know about maple trees before you decide if they really are the right tree to grace your neighborhood.

Native Species

Maples Trees 101 What You Need to Know

As mentioned, three maples are native to Oregon. This includes the big-leaf maple, vine maple, and Rocky Mountain maple. Each are distinctly different so read on for additional information.

Big-leaf Maple: This tree is one of the best known maples and is known for its 6-12 inch leaves. You will need room if you want to add this tree to your yard as it grows about 100 feet tall and four inches in diameter. For this reason, ensure it is planted far enough away from any structure so when it towers over your home, you’ll never have to worry if the base is healthy enough and won’t accidentally topple over where it could cause immense damage.

Vine Maple: This species leaves have five to nine lobes and are 2-4 inches in diameter. The vine maple is likely a better option to add to your property. It will only grow to about 20 feet, with multiple stems several inches thick. It does, however, prefer damp areas with good soil, so consider placement before jumping at this choice.

Rocky Mountain Maple: These leaves have three main lobes and are usually 2-5 inches. The Rocky Mountain maple is another great selection as it grows even less; usually about 12 feet tall. It’s also hardier as it can withstand the climate in Oregon, as well as South Dakota, Nebraska, and even New Mexico and Arizona.

Are Maple Trees Deciduous?

If you’re asking this question, you are likely looking for a tree that either shares it’s rich green color all year long or is more seasonal, sprouting color during specific moments. So, let’s first address deciduous.

When a tree is labeled deciduous it means that it sheds its leaves annually. So, with this knowledge, are maple leaves deciduous?

Well, it depends on the species. In fact, while most maple specifies to indeed share immensely beautiful falls colors that people flock to as the weather turns brisk, other species retain their green color throughout the year.

With so many versions of maples gracing the globe, which ones are marked as deciduous. If we are referring to our native species, yes, these maples are indeed deciduous.

However, there are versions residing in southern Asia and the Mediterranean that are labeled evergreen.

Are there any Portland Heritage Trees that are maples?

Yes, there are a number of maple heritage trees with most recent tally is at 14. Trees number 252 and 295 are both bigleaf maples. The first is 70 feet tall, while the later reaches a full 100 feet. Fun fact: Number 295 was planted in honor of General Joseph Lane who came or Oregon via the Oregon Trail. He was a territorial delegate to Congress and later one of the state’s first U.S. Senators. Today, you can find it inside the Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery.

Other famous Oregon maples include four Sycamore, reaching between 65 feet and 85 feet; a 75-foot Silver maple; two Japanese maples, 28 and 31 feet respectively; and a 60 foot Norway maple, among others.

I’d like to transplant a maple tree into my yard. Will it survive?

Like any tree transplant, this process is stressful for the plant and a newly transplanted maple will need extensive attention as regular moisture is critical for survival. However, if you have the patients and green thumb, or support, to take on this task, here are the recommended steps:

  • Prune off any broken or injured branches. Use clean cuts above the node. This will ensure the tree is putting its energy into establishing root rather than caring for its injured limb.
  • Leave about 6 inches around the base of the tree and then add three to six inches of organic mulch. Reach out to your local arborist if you are unsure what mulch to use.
  • If the maple is top heavy and/or you are concerned it could topple when windy, stake it. Add two to three and wrap it with fabric.
  • You want the soil around the roots to remain moist, but not wet, so water often. If three to four inches into the ground near the tree feels dry, then it’s time for more water.
  • If you suspect rodents, add a trunk guard to its base.
  • Remove the stakes within a year to prevent impaired tree growth.

When should my maples be pruned?

There is some debate as root pressure causes sap to flow to any wound when it is cool, so some suggest waiting until a later date. However, winter pruning will usually not harm a fully mature tree.

If you are concerned your tree may be too young to ensure a winter pruning or you prefer to err on the side of caution, simple wait until summer to prune after all its leaves have returned.

Which diseases are most likely to affect my maple trees?

Unfortunately, while maples are a lovely sight to see in the fall, they are susceptible to a number of diseases and infections. Some to watch out for include cankers (fungal sores that invade weakened bark and limbs), anthracnose (fungal infection causing brown or black spots on leaves or twigs), verticillium wilt (fungi that turns leaves a faded green, yellow, or brown), and more.

Just like the other plants and trees in your yard, keep an eye on your maple and watch for any unsightly changes that could indicate a problem. If you are concerned, reach out to your local arborist to address the issue as it may be resolved or could lead to necessary tree removal.