Common names: Douglas maple, Rocky Mountain maple
There are over 100 maple species in the world. Most of them are native to Asia, but about a dozen are native to North America. Of these North American species, three are native to western North America, Acer macrophyllum (Bigleaf maple), Acer circinatum (Vine maple). and Acer glabrum (Douglas maple).
Acer glabrum, commonly called Douglas maple or Rocky Mountain maple, is the least known of the northwest maples. It is a small tree or shrub, usually multi-stemmed. It is similar to A. circinatum, but can withstand colder temperatures, and may be found on sites that are drier and more open. A. glabrum can reach 7 - 9 metres (25 -30 feet) in height.
A. glabrum leaves are usually three-lobed and have coarsely serrated margins. They are dark green above, and greyish-green below. In fall, they turn to shades of yellow, peachy-orange, and red.
A. glabrum flowers are yellowish-green, and appear about the same time as the leaves develop. The samaras are about 2 -3 centimetres (1 inch) long, joined in pairs in a V-shape.
The species name glabrum means smooth or without hairs referring to the smooth stems and leaves. This shrub is named for David Douglas, a Scottish botanist and plant explorer who identified over 200 new plant species while plant hunting in North America. It also has the common name Rocky Mountain maple. This shrub is plentiful in many parts of the Rockies.
Douglas maple provides food and shelter for wildlife. Animals such as deer, elk, and moose browse the leaves and twigs. The seeds are eaten by small animals and birds.
The wood is tough and pliable, and was used by First Nations people to make snowshoe frames, bows, and also as a source of fuel.
Acer glabrum is planted in the Canadian Heritage Garden.
Text by Kumi Sutcliffe
Tree photo by Хомелка, via Wikimedia Commons
Leaf photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, via Wikimedia Commons
Fall colour photo by Ninjatacoshell, via Wikimedia Commons
Flower photo by Walter Siegmund, via Wikimedia Commons