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  • Writer's pictureAimee

Featured Plant: Rocky Mountain Maple

Nomenclature and History

Carl Linnaeus named this genus "Acer" from the ancient Latin word for maples in 1753. This species was first collected in Colorado in 1820 and was named "glabrum" ("smooth" in Latin) by John Torrey in 1827.(1)


This species can be found

in Western North America from Alaska to New Mexico. There have also been sightings as far south as Mexico! (2)

Ancient Uses

Rocky Mountain Maple's pliable stems "were used by various American Indian tribes to make drying racks, drum hoops, snowshoe frames, spears, pegs, toys,

and masks. The fibrous bark was woven into mats and rope." (3)

Other sources described multiple ways to prepare and eat Rocky Mountain Maple such as cooking young shoots like asparagus or crushing the leaves to use as a spice (4). Although it sounds as though it was consumed only in dire circumstances.

Sources describe it as a cure-all including:

  • poison antidote

  • antiemetic

  • useful substance during and after child birth

Rocky Mountain Maple Today

This species is a beautiful part of our natural and cultivated landscapes. It is a useful plant for reducing erosion, improving wildlife habitat after fires, and establishing low maintenance landscapes.

In the northern part of its range, Rocky Mountain Maple is an important for both browse and shelter for bighorn sheep, moose, mule deer and elk. (5) Animals mainly consume the buds and new growth, although it typically grows quickly enough to be out of reach for most animals.

It grows well with a variety of different species we cultivate including:

  • Rocky Mountain Juniper, Juniperus scopulorum

  • Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa

  • Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii

  • Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta

  • Quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides

  • Saskatoon serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia

  • Kinnickinnick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

  • Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflora

  • Red elderberry, Sambucus racemosa

  • Mountain snowberry, Symphoricarpos oreophilus

  • Mock Orange, Philadelphus lewisii

  • White Spirea, Spiraea betulifolia

  • Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium









Snowshoes: Western Subartic Antique Indian Snowshoes. circa 1890 – 1920. Photo Courtesy & Copyright

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Jul 03, 2022

Why do all your source links take me to the store page for Vintage Winter?

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