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Home > Landscaping > Native Plants for Western Washington Gardens and Restoration Projects



Acer circinatum

Vine Maple

Flowering Period: May, Jun May June
Flower color: white
Partial sun Mostly shady
Wet soil Moist soil


At a Glance: Tall, erect, multi-trunked shrub or small tree with sprawling branches.

Height: 13-26 feet (4-8 meters)
Growth Form: Tree or shrub.
Stems: Bark is initially smooth and bright green, eventually turning brown with age.
Leaves: Leaves are palmate (arranged like fingers on the palm of a hand) with seven to nine lobes; leaf surfaces are hairy on upper and lower sides and along veins; margins are toothed. Size: 5-12 cm (2-5 in) across. Leaves are green in spring; in early fall they turn orange-red or red in full sun or golden in the shade. Additionally, leaves are oppositely arranged on branches.
Flowers: Flowers grow in small loose clusters at the end of shoots. Flower sepals are purple and red, hairy and spreading; petals are creamy white with purple/red highlights. Flower size: 6-9 mm across.
Flowering Period: May, June.
Fruits: The fruit is a two-seeded winged fruit called a samara. The wings of the samara point away from each other on the same horizontal plane. Size: 2-4 cm (0.8-2 in) long; color: fruits are initially green then later turn a reddish-brown.

Acer circinatum
Photo © 2003, Starflower Foundation
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Sun/Shade Tolerance Hydrology Elevation Range
Shade tolerant and commonly found in understories.

full sun > 80%
mostly sunny 60%-80%
partial sun and shade 40%- 60%
mostly shady 60%-80%
full shade > 80%

Favors well drained moist to wet soils.

wet
moist
dry

Wetland Indicator Status:
FACU (facultative upland)
Found at elevations below 760 meters.

low elevation
mid elevation
sub-alpine
high elevation


Soil Preferences
Prefers well drained, nitrogen-rich soils.
sandy soils
gravelly soils
clay soils
muddy soils
peaty soils
well drained soils
shallow soils
deep soils
acidic soils
basic soils
humic soils
nutrient rich soils
nutrient poor soils
mineral soils
organic soils

Habitat Preferences
Aquatic and Wetland:
Ponds or lakes
Shallow pools
Sloughs
Swales or wet ditches
Seasonally inundated areas
Marshes or swamps
Aquatic bed wetlands
Emergent wetlands
Scrub-shrub wetlands
Forested wetlands
Bogs, fens
Seeps, springs
Shorelines and Riparian:
Lake shores
Bog margins
Streams or rivers
Stream or river banks
Riparian corridors
River bars
Floodplains
Bottomlands
Alluvial areas
Saltwater Areas:
In or near saltwater
Mud flats
Tidal areas
Estuaries
Saltmarshes
Brackish water
Seashores
Coastal dunes or beaches
Rocky or Gravelly Areas:
Coastal bluffs
Cliffs
Rocky slopes
Outcrops
Crevices
Glacial outwash
Gullies
Slide areas
Sub-alpine and Alpine:
Heaths
Snow beds
Tundra
Avalanche tracks
Forests and Thickets:
Forests and woods
Open forests
Coniferous forests
Old growth forests
Deciduous forests
Mixed forests
Nurse logs
Forest edges, openings, or clearings
Thickets
Meadows and Fields:
Pastures or fields
Meadows or grassy areas
Mossy areas
Disturbed Areas:
Roadsides
Trailsides
Logged sites
Burned areas
Disturbed sites

Wildlife Value
Berries
Seeds
Nectar for hummingbirds
Nectar for butterflies
Host for insect larvae
Thickets and shelter
Thorny or protective cover

Birds: Birds that eat the seeds include grosbeaks, woodpeckers, nuthatches, finches, quail, and grouse.
Insects: A larvae plant for the brown tissue moth and the Polyphemus moth. A good nectar source for bees.
Mammals: Deer, mountain beavers, and other beavers eat the twigs and wood.


Ethnobotanical Uses and Other Facts
Material Uses: Vine maple wood is very dense and hard. It was used by northwest native groups to build snowshoe frames, drum hoops, and a variety of other small implements such as spoons and dishes. The Quinault peoples used the hard wood to make baskets. The Quinault, Chehalis, Quileute, and Lummi used the wood to construct dipnet fish traps. The Quinault also used the wood to hold down the roof planks on houses. The Skagit used the wood to make babies cradles and salmon tongs. Many groups used the wood for fire fuel. The Quinault used the burnt charcoal and mixed it with oil to make black paint. The Suquamish and Cowichan used the wood to make knitting needles. The Suquamish and Katzie also sometimes used the wood to make bows from the straighter branches.


Suggested References



The landscaping and restoration information provided on this page is taken from the Starflower Foundation Image Herbarium. All photographs © Starflower Foundation unless otherwise noted.