Bigleaf maple hardiness?

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Unregistered, Oct 31, 2004.

  1. I am trying to find specific information on the minimum temperature bigleaf maple will survive. So far I have found lots of interesting stuff on the ecology and distribution of the species, but information on hardiness varies from zone 5 to 7. I live in southern Norway, and bigleaf maple is extremely rare here. I´ve seen a cople of healthy young trees along the coast, and I´m hoping to find seed from a northern source to try this magnificent maple myself.
  2. angilbas

    angilbas Active Member

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    Sidney, BC
    The hardiest Bigleaf Maple stock should be found near the northeastern edge of its range, as at Pemberton and Seton Portage. In the Fraser Canyon, it is abundant at Boston Bar; northward, it occurs more sparsely up to about 10 km south of Lytton (along the railroad). USA specimens of similar hardiness may be found around Lake Chelan in Washington, and at the confluence of the Lochsa and Selway Rivers in central Idaho.

  3. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    I've seen Acer macrophyllum grown on a creek
    bank survive down to -2°F. Supposedly the tree
    can live down to -10°F.

  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    In Norway there could also be the problem of the Northern European summer conditions. The van Gelderens (Maples for Gardens) say

    It prefers a climate with dry summers. In Europe, vigorously growing shoots tend to suffer in winter because they do not harden early enough. Zone 6 (Europe 7).
  5. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Apparently certain coastal areas of Norway are much
    warmer than the inland areas are. Even still, Oslo's
    climate is not that much cooler than Berlin's average
    temperatures are.

    I suggest you join this forum and tell us how cool
    you do get in Norway and I'll figure out a way for
    you to grow this tree. If you can keep it alive for
    5 years in the ground you should be okay with it.

    Most sources consider this Maple a Zone 4 at a
    minimum but with Winter protection and other
    safeguards this Maple can handle Zone 2 temps.

    The point that the newest growth will not harden
    off is quite valid. I know that is true from the
    plants I've grown in a Zone 2. What people do
    not fully realize is the growth cycle of the tree
    in such a cool zone when the length of the
    growing season is more of an issue than the
    actual cold is. What happens to me with most
    of my Conifers is that I will get an initial
    spurt of growth in late Spring, which is May
    at that location and then the growth about a
    month later will gradually stop. Long periods
    of sustained temperatures without dramatic
    evening temperature reductions will initiate
    a second growth spurt, about the same thing
    that happens in most areas in mid-Central to
    upper Oregon. It is the second growth spurt
    that may not harden off in time for the onset
    of cold, not the first growth spurt but as the
    tree better acclimates itself over time it will
    know when to send out a second growth spurt
    and when not to.

    People have not paid attention to where we
    see this Maple grow naturally and what the
    surroundings are for this Maple. Grown
    in a Zone 6 out in the open with no Winter
    protection, yes indeed this Maple can suffer
    but we generally do not see this Maple in areas
    all by its lonesome. Even in a Zone 2 we will
    see the Maple growing on creek banks or in a
    dense thicket whereby the tree is generally
    protected from cold winds by some Conifers
    or lush growing large shrubs. Dry locations
    is a misnomer for this tree as most of the areas
    I've seen get ample rainfall with mid to late
    Summer rains becoming quite important for
    this tree. A sustained water source is probably
    the most important facet as to whether the tree
    will survive in the wild. Notice where we find
    these trees in cool climates, a primary water
    source for the root systems is not too far away
    from them.

    We can find this Maple growing in pockets
    in Alaska with an average length of growing
    season of 100 - 120 days. Oslo has a 190
    day length of growing season which means
    if this Maple can handle Alaska's sustained
    cool weather that this Maple has a better
    chance of being grown in Oslo in that
    respect. The dilemma is how do we keep
    this tree alive long enough for the trees root
    system to grow and develop in order for it to
    adapt to its unnatural and new environmental
    and climatic conditions? We do it or better put
    we can help with knowing how to culturally
    aid this tree to make it better adapt to where
    we want to grow it. Can you grow a Big Leaf
    Maple in southern Norway? If you take enough
    precautions and with proper site preparation
    you have a decent shot at being able to grow it
    there but it may not be easy for you to do. It
    will be a challenge but your reward may outweigh
    the overall risk. Anyone can grow a tree that
    everyone else can grow but not everyone can grow
    a tree that others have failed at or have not ever
    bothered to try growing for themselves. Where
    we learn is by trying as opposed to our not ever
    knowing for sure could we have fulfilled our
    quest to grow a tree we like in an area where it
    is not natural for it to grow and prosper.

  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    Sometimes a species sold in Britain and/or Northern Europe is from one or a few introductions, assigning a single hardiness rating to an entire species can be based at least partly on this.
  7. Frodo

    Frodo Member

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    Norway (N.E. of Oslo)
    Thank you for some interesting comments. The climate of coastal Norway is similar to that of coastal BC, from around northern Vancouver Island and north. There is no "dry season" in summer. The climate of inland Norway (and BC) is complex and not as easy to compare. In the southern lowlands where I live, average temp. in July is +16 C and in January -7 C. Precipitation is around 700 mm (28 inches), and summers are relatively dry. In normal winters the temperature drops to -25 or -30, the record low is around -40 C. I dont expect bigleaf maple to survive this, so I plan to grow it on the southern coast where we have a cabin. Minimum temperature in that area is around -20 C, precipitation 1500 mm (60 inches).
    From the data I have found, the extreme winter lows in the inland areas of BC where bigleaf maple grows are -25 to -30C. However, these areas have much higher temperatures in summer than any place in norhtern Europe. Our cool summers will maybe limit the hardiness. On the other hand, many plants grow well under conditions different from those in their natural range. Where I live, species like norway maple, linden, ash and oak are at their northern limit of natural distribution, but still they are considered hardy much further north.
  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    Likewise, native western North American native trees that die out naturally well to the south of here are cultivated in our area. In nature they have to endure a much longer span of winters to persist in a region. Many of our current landmark trees do not date back far enough to have been present for a really serious winter. For example, one of Washington's most impressive Sequoiadendron giganteum was planted in 1920.

    Other environmental factors can influence natural distribution of trees as well, such as summer climate, fire history, soil composition, and glaciation. Competition from other tree species also plays a role. This latter influence appears to be manifested in the local distribution of slow-growing, shade-intolerant Quercus garryana, which is quite scattered north of the Tacoma prairies, presumably because it can only grow where moisture conditions are too severe (wet or dry) for other trees to crowd it out. At Three Tree Point, near Seattle the three trees (oaks) grow only out near the extreme tip of the point, with a solid bank of Arbutus menziesii starting immediately inland from them and completely dominating the rest of the ridge.
  9. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Hi Frodo:

    Thank you for joining the UBC forums.

    I’ll get back to you later. In time I will need to know
    more of your soil type, water holding capacity and
    what kind of coastal setting you have. Protection from
    cold winds and help in keeping the roots from being
    frozen for too long a period of time will be our main,
    central issues to overcome.

    I will say this now that you will want to start off growing
    seedlings, not starting from seeds. I am feeling, if you
    can pull it off to grow your Maples in containers at home
    until they’ve developed a root system, then transplant
    them later to your coastal location. I would want to baby
    them at home and get them to acclimate to your cold and
    then move them to a little warmer location. That is similar
    to what I did. I transplanted my Big Leaf Maples to their
    location in a Zone 2. They were not there to start with. The
    seedlings were initially grown in a micro-climate in between
    a Zone 7 and a Zone 2 and then I brought them to a Zone 8
    to grow them on to a 7 gallon root system sized plant then
    transplanted them where I wanted them.

    You will probably lose a few of these so you may want
    to double your original estimate of how many of these
    trees you want to have. That is how we worked things
    when we brought in plants that have not ever grown
    here or were not supposed to grow here at all. We tried
    to grow them on, fully expecting a 50% loss the first
    couple of years, until we learned how to overcome our
    over zealousness in learning how to grow them.

    Hi Ron:

    < Sometimes a species sold in Britain and/or Northern
    Europe is from one or a few introductions, assigning a
    single hardiness rating to an entire species can be based
    at least partly on this.

    Precisely, I agree completely. Transplanted Maples
    can be a whole different growing issue than native
    Maples generally are in their natural settings. You
    saw right through the hidden point I was trying to

    Thank you for your valued input in these forums.
    Your last informative post is what I’ve been waiting
    for as I know little or nothing about growing plants,
    other than some Agronomic crops, in your state of

    Best regards,


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