Big Leaf Maple With Pink Wildflowers


Here in the land of giant trees we tend to take our smaller species for granted.

We shouldn’t.

This handsome big leaf maple deserves a second look. The photo was taken in late March when a sprinkling of pale pink wildflowers dusted the carpet of green around the tree.

Thanks, Uti Deva, for sending this in. If you have a photo you would like to share of a tree, upload it in the comment section. If you have another local photo to share like Uti did, send it to



  • Here’s one I took yesterday. Old and Young Oaks.

    Have you ever noticed that you don’t see many young oak trees, mostly old trees standing alone? That’s because the deer eat the young oak seedlings and regeneration is suppressed. Before European-American settlers came here the natives “managed” the environment differently, the deer were hunted, not just the bucks, for subsistence and there were more natural predators keeping the deer population in check. They used fire to enhance the oak woodlands, for acorn production which fed both humans and wildlife.

    What you see in this photo is a beautiful mixed age forest of oaks. My neighbor, who just turned 70 yesterday completely fenced off a section of his property using old recycled stock fencing about 25 years ago in order to put in some vegetable row crops, a plan later abandoned. What happened was that without the deer suddenly young oak trees began to grow around the mother trees and the project took on a whole different focus to restore the oak woodlands.

    This man knew a lot about restoration because he was already doing riparian restoration down by the creek and planting tens of thousands of fir trees on the cut-over land he bought on the courthouse steps at a back-taxes land auction, but the oaks became a wonderful compliment to the rest of his work that goes from the river up to the ridge tops a thousand feet above.

    A couple of years ago he and helpers limbed up the young oaks past head height and pruned the Manzanita to reduce the fuel load for fire safety, so if a wildfire did come through it would burn low, fast and cool which would further enhance the oaks, but more importantly protect his house and outbuildings.

    • Beautiful…Shade and light are so hard to capture and you did it just right.

      • throw a few dollars into a good camera and use good software and you can manage contrasty lighting much better than I ever could in my film photography days.

  • and another view….too bad word press doesn’t allow you to click to embiggify

  • Uti, I know exactly where that “big leaf maple” is. When we were kids we called it the worlds largest maple tree, mainly because it was just down the road from the worlds largest madrone. I wonder if it may actually be the largest.

    In my lifetime I have seen the demise of two of my three favorite huge trees, the Dyerville Giant and the Council Madrone. The only one left is “The Worlds Largest Maple”. GREAT PHOTO!

    • Ernie, I looked up the current world record B.L. Maple from American Forests Champions and it’s up in Oregon with a 305″ girth at 4.5 feet off the ground, 104 foot crown width and is 88 feet high.

      I measured the Wolf Ranch maple as best I could by myself with a 200′ tape and the girth is approximately 447″, the maximum crown width is approximately 130 feet !!! I don’t have an instrument to measure the height, but it appears to be more than 88 feet to me.

      Here’s the hitch. In measuring circumference there is a test to determine if it is a single tree or multiple trees fused together at the base. If it’s multiple fused trees you have to measure the largest trunk. In our case the Wolf maple appears to me to be 3 or 4 fused trees and the biggest trunk is approximately 240″ in circumference.

      But, there’s a chance it could beat the Oregon tree because the record is determined by a mathematical formula using circumference, crown spread and height to produce a final score. If I can get permission from the new owners of the ranch to do the official measurements I’d love to see if it beats the Oregon tree. They’ve already given me permission to trespass to do my photography project on the tree throughout the seasons, so if they don’t mind their tree being in the record books I’d like to see if it qualifies.

      See photo for illustration of determining pith lines to see if it sprouted from one seed or several, then fused together.

    • Ernie, it’s not a local species, but there is still a world-record giant tree around. The World Champion Bluegum Eucalyptus is just off the road, in the new cemetery, between Petrolia and the ocean on the Mattole Road. Quite a worthy tree! Only planted around the turn of the last century.

  • I think the pink wild flowers are Filaree. I’ve noticed that Filaree has been really prolific the past few years, drought related ?? Lots of grassy hillsides have been taken over by it.

    • I looked it up and I think you’re right it’s filaree. I’ve been photographing the tree for 10 years and I’ve never seen it this prolific. There was a lull in cattle grazing for a few years while the ranch was changing ownership and now there’s more grazing, but the Filaree is so short I don’t think the cows graze it because the were around during the bloom and only seem to have been eating taller grasses.

      One thing the cows have done in the past year is trample the ground under the tree bare because they shelter under there on hot days and this spring the thistle has taken over under the tree. Bummer.

      • I actually think grazing has helped the Filaree . Keeping the grass grazed has allowed it to proliferate as a lot if it would otherwise be choked out by tall grasses. Also, I think the drought has diminished some grasses that would have helped keep it down.

  • Filaree, or “storksbill” in the past was eaten by sheep and cattle. Have you seen any of those lately? Maybe thats why there is so much.

    The sheep had to be sheared in the spring before the filaree dried, because the seeds spiral into little corkscrews when they dry. The seeds get into the wool and ruins the value.

    Most of the local kids used to like to play with the storksbill. They would pretend that they were swords or needles, or stick one through another to make scissors. If you take the cap off the end and pull the seeds apart they will turn into corkscrews. But that was before smartphones.

    • Ernie , actually some of the infiltration of Filaree that I see are on large cattle ranches. By being large maybe the cattle aren’t bothering with it and opting for the grasses instead. I remember making scissors with Filaree, another pastime was picking the stems if flowering plantain, wrapping the stem around itself and shooting the flowering bud at each other .

  • Thank you Uti for the photos and stories of oak regeneration. Awesome!

    The first photo of the Massive Maple Tree shows a perfect example of conifer encroachment caused by fire suppression. ( And yeah, I think Ernie may be right, that may be the biggest Maple Tree there is!) The Maple created a niche (micro climate) for the conifers to get established and without fire, the conifers are on their way to swallowing up that massive Maple. This is the same story for our oak woodlands. In our region, Douglas Fir invasion is the #1 threat to our oak woodlands (Black Oak and White Oak.)

    I am so glad that you shared the photos of the teenage oaks. That is such a rare sight. The site you photographed is one of only two areas in California where I have seen so many baby oak trees. Both sites were large areas that were fenced in and allowed for oak regeneration. My guess is that prior to Euro-American arrival hunting kept deer constantly on the move, and less sedentary. Deer couldn’t just camp out in areas and continually browse. Also, most likely there there were more predators and their ranges were less confined by habitat fragmentation. The deer and elk were probably always in motion and more nervous. (I’m sure it’s all much more complicated than this.)

    Fire (as you mentioned) was also the “house cleaner” of the land. It has become obvious that the war on fire has created unintended long term consequences for our landscape. Fire was a diversity maker. Fire ecologists sometimes call fire’s biophysical effect on the land “pyro-diversity.”

    What was once a diverse mosaic of grasslands, oak woodlands, old growth conifers, and mixed forest is now on its way to becoming a much more simplified landscape dominated by Douglas Fir. With the loss of habitat diversity comes the loss of biodiversity. Our oak woodlands are the most biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystem in California. Without fire (or an active fuel’s reduction effort) the fir trees are swallowing them up right before our eyes.

    Time to get the chainsaws out and get thinning.

    • Kyle, as Dylan Mattole pointed out to me Saturday, the hillsides between the Ettersburg school and the Wolf maple were grass when he was a boy. We could see those areas from Robie’s house. Now it’s like a thick “beard” of young firs on the hill. Another friend of mine above Blue Slide creek to the east says that 30 years ago she could see the Wolf maple from her land, but now the Tanoaks have grown up on those old logging cuts to the east of the tree and block her view.

      When I was working in Yosemite Valley in the 70’s and 80’s the NPS did the first controlled burns to reclaim the meadows from the incense cedars and pines. Those little conifer seedlings went poof when the grasses and needle duff quickly burned and the heat killed the bigger saplings—there were no oak saplings to speak of due to the abundant pampered deer. The biologists were lucky that there were photographs of the Valley from made as early as 1859 by Charles Weed and Carleton Watkins up to the present time and you could see the meadows start to disappear quickly as soon as they kicked the sheep herders out who had displaced the natives, then they stopped people from camping and grazing pack animals in the early 20th. century. The native peoples kept the Valley floor burned to suppress the conifers, enhance the oaks and provide the deer with more browse so the goal is to keep more diversity in the valley by using fire as you noted.

  • Tulip Torpedo

    Nice to read about all this, thanks to all

  • Wonderful discussion. Interesting, informative and intelligent. Thanks to all who are participating. I look forward to future such discussions on various topics of local interest. Thanks!

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