Vine Maple: Coloring Our Woods

Love our local plants? You can learn more about them from Cheryl Lisin of the Lost Coast Interpretive Association. She sends us frequent tidbits on our native flora. Here’s what she has to say about the vine maple whose leaves are showing off fall colors right now:

16Vine maple,  Acer circinatum, is not really a vine at all.  When in the shady forest, the branches grow tall to reach for the light, and support themselves on the trunks of nearby trees, or if no tree trunk is available  they ramble along the ground.  In either case, they can resemble a vine, hence the common name. Trees growing along stream banks arch and hang over the water, providing shade and refuge for small fish. When not crowded, vine maple forms a nice, round crowned little tree, up to 35 feet tall. The lobed leaves can get up to 10” but are usually 3” or 4” wide and are circular in outline, hence the species name.  Fall color can be spectacular reds and oranges on trees growing in the open and soft pale yellow in the deep shade, making this an excellent small tree for gardens.17




  • WOW!!!!! Thank you Kym, they are exploding in color up HWY 36. Been going up there for 27 years and never knew what they were called!!!! Thank for this wonderful info!!!!

  • Nope. The “close up” photo is an Oregon Ash, not maple. The old-timers used Ash wood for baby cradles and front doors; it was/is considered a Spirit Tree and protected the folks in the cradle or behind the door from malevolent spirits.
    I can’t make out the species of tree in the larger photo, but it sure looks like a Broad Leaf Maple…
    [The Oregon Ash in the close up is showing signs of Sudden Oak Death, (not specific to Oaks) and should be checked out. SOD travels in water…]af

  • The Ash trees are quite abundant along the fields and streams of Laytonville. It is definitely definitely a spirit wood to me!

    • Lost Croat Outburst

      Aren’t they great? Reminds me of the several ash species I grew up with in Ohio. Tough, flexible wood in general. Oregon Ash only grows in the best, moist, richest bottomland soil. I never see it follow streams right up into the hills like maples. Legend is, I think, that Ted Williams picked his own trees right from the plantation, for his bats. Somebody help me. Asian imported insect is destroying the eastern species. Hold your breath.

  • The dogwood trees are most amazing also. Stealthy trees, only visible early spring with white blooms, and right now with pink leaves.


    kim, thanks for putting in the correction about the o. ash trees…. alot of people ask us what they are…. has anyone else noticed that they are filling the tan oak nitch as it dies out to sods ? they are kind of a water loving tree as ias alder, but ive been finding them everywhere the last 6-7 years. even on ridge tops… alot of cotton wood surviving along the rivers with this hear drought…… thanks for all the nature stuff god knows we can all use it……

  • Nuth’r reason to luv livin in Humboldt Co.

  • The only Vine Maples that I know about grow along the headwaters of the Mattole River in So Hum. Very pretty and mostly orange/yellow. They are small and do hang over river.

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