This family exists in the Cronquist and similar systems, but is not recognized in the APG System. In the APG System (2012 Jepson Flora), the members of Aceraceae were merged into the family Sapindaceae along the with Hippocastinaceae (Buckeyes, Horse Chestnut) and Litchi (Lychee).

In California, Aceraceae is represented by the single genus Acer (Maples)


Dicot Plant Families

Plant Relationships

Native Genera:



Related Genera:


Related Families:



(Sumac, poison oak, smoke tree, pepper tree, etc.)
(Frankincense, myrrh)
(Buckeye, horse chestnut)
(Neem, mahogany)
(Hoptree, citrus)


Growth Forms:

All members of Aceraceae in California are trees. Acer circinatum could also be described as a large shrub.


Opposite branching


Acer circinatum and Acer macrophyllum are palmate. Acer negundo is pinnately compound.
In the eastern US, maple leaves are known for their red, orange and gold colors in the fall. In California, however, the maples do not provide good fall color. Bigleaf maple leaves turn a modest yellow. Box elder leaves barely turn yellow before they die and fall off.


Maple flowers are often showy, in panicles or racemes. They are wind pollinated.


The seeds are in pairs, and each seed has a wing. The wings appear during flowering. Although the seed appears ready in July, it is not viable until fall. When the seeds dry and fall off, they flutter to earth and are carried a short distance by the wind.

Growing Conditions

Natural Habitat:

Maples are known for growing in riparian zones but they also grow in openings in a forest canopy or on open hillsides if the soil conditons are favorable. Maples are a late successional genus.

Shade Tolerance:

Maples are shade tolerant. They often seed in the shade of other trees and emerge through openings in the canopy. They grow better, however, in the full sun.

Soil and Moisture:

Maples prefer mesic soil that is well structured, mature and fertile.

Horticulture and Restoration

Horticultural Comments:

Maples can be used as specimen trees and have good structure if grown in the full sun. Bigleaf maple and vine maple are particularly useful as landscape subjects. Vine maple is often used as a large shrub or small tree.
Maples grown in dense shade have many thin branches that are prone to breakage.

Wildlife Habitat:

The main value is for nesting habitat for birds, although the seeds are useful to wildlife as well.

Restoration Projects:

Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) and Box elder (Acer negundo var. californicum) are generally used for riparian restoration projects.

California Native
Plant Guide

Jepson (2012) (APG System)



Jepson (1993) (Cronquist System)



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