Native Plants for the Intermountain West: Plant List

Acer grandidentatum in the Landscape

Larry A. Rupp, Utah State University

Scientfic Name:  Acer grandidentatum
Common Name:  Bigtooth Maple, Canyon Maple, Wasatch Maple, Western Sugar Maple

Description:  A small tree of varying forms and sizes that is adapted well to various soil types and moisture conditions. The flowers are not showy, but the deeply-lobed, tooth-like leaves are an attractive dark green in the summer changing to exceptional fall colors of yellow to red. The bark is smooth and gray. A good choice for water conserving landscapes at the residential scale.

Native Habitat:  Common to the foothills and mountains of Utah and Idaho and extending throughout most of the western states as far east as Texas. Occurs in areas with 16-30 inches of precipitation and is hardy to -30°F. It is generally larger in riparian areas and north to east facing slopes, but can also occur in dry, south facing slopes and in a variety of soil types.

Cultural Requirement

Soil:  Performs best in deep, well drained soils. Tolerant to a wide range of soil types.

Moisture Tolerance:  Tolerant to a wide range of soil moisture conditions and adapted to low supplemental irrigation.

Sun/Shade/Preference:  Full sun to partial shade. Can survive in shade, but the canopy is more open and sparse.

Transplanting:  Easy.

Propagation:  In nature it is propagated by seed and by layering. In the nursery it is propagated primarily by seed, but can be propagated with some difficulty by cuttings or layers.

Maintenance (pruning, fertilization, deadheading, division, irrigation, etc):  Tends to have a dense crown that can benefit from careful pruning. Pruning should be done in late winter or late spring to avoid weeping of sap in early spring.

Insect, disease, or other problems:  None significant enough to prevent its use. In the field it is susceptible to minor insect damage from aphids, twig borers, and cicadas. These problems are minimal in the nursery, but mites may attack new growth. Diseases include leaf anthracnose and Phytophthora root rot.

Landscape Value

Use in the Landscape:  Effective as a small shade tree.

Foliage:  Alternate leaves are dark green and deeply lobed. Fall leaf color occurs in various shades of yellow to orange to red.

Flower:  Flowers are yellow to green and insignificant in appearance. Occur in early spring.

Timing:  Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct

Fruit:  The fruit is a double-winged samara ranging from green to red and fading to straw yellow in the fall.

Form:  Single to multi-stemmed large shrub to small tree. Pyramidal, oval, and columnar forms exist in the wild.

Texture:  Moderate

Ultimate Size:  Highly variable in nature with a range from 10 to 60 feet in height and 10-30 feet in width.

Rate of Growth:  Moderate

Suggested Plant Partners:  Multiple possibilities

Availability:  Usually as a seed-grown plant produced with the dual purposes of reclamation or landscaping in mind. Cultivars are usually grafted on Acer saccharum and are limited in availability except for Rocky Mountain Glow.

Cultivars:  Current cultivars include Rocky Mountain Glow, Western Torch, and Manzano. New cultivars are currently being developed.


Richards, M.R. 2010. Selecting and Propagating Clones of Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandidentatum Nutt.)
Masters Thesis, Utah State University.

USDA-NRCS Plants Database.