Bigleaf maple decline tied to hotter, drier summers in Washington

Michelle Ma September 30 Washington University News

As its name suggests, the bigleaf maple tree’s massive leaves are perhaps its most distinctive quality. A native to the Pacific Northwest’s wet westside forests, these towering trees can grow leaves up to 1.5 feet across — the largest of any maple.

But since 2011, scientists, concerned hikers and residents have observed more stressed and dying bigleaf maple across urban and suburban neighborhoods as well as in forested areas. Often the leaves are the first to shrivel and die, eventually leaving some trees completely bare. While forest pathologists have ruled out several specific diseases, the overall cause of the tree’s decline has stumped experts for years.


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