Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Acer circinatum


SPECIES: Acer circinatum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Uchytil, Ronald J. 1989. Acer circinatum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : ACECIR SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : ACCI COMMON NAMES : vine maple TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of vine maple is Acer circinatum Pursh. [30,33,48,65]. There are no recognized subspecies, varieties, or forms. LIFE FORM : Tree, Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Acer circinatum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Vine maple occurs in the Pacific Northwest. It ranges from the Cascade Mountains to the coast and from southwestern British Columbia to northern California [26]. In Washington and California, vine maple may extend down the east side of the Cascade Mountains along canyon bottoms and moist slopes but is confined almost entirely to the west side of the Cascades in Oregon [61]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES21 Ponderosa pine FRES23 Fir - spruce FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce FRES27 Redwood FRES28 Western hardwoods STATES : CA OR WA BC BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 4 Sierra Mountains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K001 Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest K003 Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest K004 Fir - hemlock forest K005 Mixed conifer forest K006 Redwood forest K007 Red fir forest K025 Alder - ash forest K026 Oregon oakwoods K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026 K029 California mixed evergreen forest SAF COVER TYPES : 211 White fir 221 Red alder 222 Black cottonwood - willow 223 Sitka spruce 224 Western hemlock 225 Western hemlock - Sitka spruce 226 Coastal true fir - western hemlock 227 Western redcedar - western hemlock 228 Western redcedar 229 Pacific Douglas-fir 230 Douglas-fir - western hemlock 231 Port Orford-cedar 232 Redwood 233 Oregon white oak 234 Douglas-fir - tanoak - Pacific madrone SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Vine maple is typically an understory shrub found in both seral and climax Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), western redcedar (Thuja plicata), Port Orford-cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), and Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis) forests on the west side of the Cascades [15,18]. On the east side of the Cascades, vine maple occurs on moist bottoms in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests [61]. The western hemlock/vine maple/western swordfern (Polystichum munitum) plant association is common throughout the Olympic, Cascade, and Coast Ranges of Oregon and Washington [26]. Vine maple sometimes dominates or codominates talus slopes with Sitka alder (Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata) [18]. Published classification schemes listing vine maple as a dominant part of the vegetation in community types (cts), habitat types (hts), or plant associations (pas) are presented below: Area Classification Authority s OR: Cascade Mtns forest pas Atzet & McCrimmon 1990 w OR: w Cascades forest cts Dyrness & others 1974 OR: Monument Peak general veg. cts Aller 1956 w OR: Mt. Hood NF western hemlock pas Halverson & others 1986 w OR: Mt. Hood & Pacific silver fir pas Hemstrom & others 1982 Willamette NF w OR: Siuslaw NF general veg. pas Hemstrom & Logan 1986 s OR: Abott Creek general veg. cts Mitchell and Moir 1976 Research Natural Area w OR: H.J. Andrews general veg. cts,hts,pas Hawk 1979 Exp. Forest nw OR: Tillamook postfire veg. cts Bailey & Poulton 1968 Burn OR, WA general veg. cts Franklin and Dyrness 1973 WA: Willamette NF general veg. pas Hemstrom & others 1987


SPECIES: Acer circinatum
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Vine maple wood has no commercial value but is used locally for tool handles and firewood [31]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : During the summer, vine maple's abundant foliage is a preferred food of black-tailed deer and elk. Since it grows at low elevations, it is usually abundant on elk winter ranges and ranks high as an elk winter browse [5,46,55]. In western Oregon, seral vine maple/western swordfern communities which develop after wildfire supply a high quantity of forage for black-tailed deer [29]. Black-tailed deer show a high preference for this community during all seasons. Seral brush communities with an abundance of vine maple often contain high populations of mountain beaver [1,6]. The seeds, buds, and flowers of maples (Acer spp.) provide food for numerous birds and small mammals. Squirrels and chipmunks eat the seeds, frequently storing them in caches after removing the hull and wing. Numerous birds use the leaves and seed stalks of maples for nest building [43]. Vine maple is eaten by both cattle and sheep. Sheep utilization of available vine maple herbage averaged 79 and 84 percent over two consecutive summers on cut-over Douglas-fir lands in Washington [32]. Sheep allowed to graze during the summer on Douglas-fir plantations in western Oregon also showed a preference for vine maple [39]. PALATABILITY : Vine maple is moderately to highly palatable to cattle and sheep [61]. Sheep grazing cut-over lands in western Oregon and Washington show a preference for this maple [32,39]. Vine maple leaves and twigs are highly palatable to black-tailed deer and elk in the summer. After leaf fall in autumn, black-tailed deer seldom consume vine maple twigs, but elk will browse the twigs throughout the winter [6,8,29,55]. The relish and degree of use shown by livestock and wildlife species for vine maple in the following western states is rated as follows [5,28,32,39,46,52]: CA OR WA Cattle fair-poor ---- ---- Sheep fair-poor good good Horses poor ---- ---- Elk ---- good good Black-tailed deer fair good(summer) good(summer) NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Analysis of western Oregon and Washington vine maple browse indicates that this plant provides little nutrition during the winter. Twigs analyzed during the winter were low in protein (4.4 to 5.8%), high in fat, and very high in crude fiber (43-50% of dry weight) [8,16,28]. The high fiber content greatly reduces digestibility, which is probably why black-tailed deer will consume this maple during the winter only when more nutritious forage is unavailable. In the summer, crude protein averages 9 to 13 percent, and crude fiber 15 to 20 percent by dry weight. At this time vine maple is a key browse species for black-tailed deer and elk. Results from the chemical analysis of vine maple plants collected in western Oregon is summarized below (collection dates unknown) [51]: Nutrient Content (% by weight) N P Mg Ca Na K Stems .18 .08 .05 .51 .003 .18 Foliage 2.28 .39 .33 .78 .008 .52 In comparison with other understory shrubs sampled in this study, vine maple generally had higher concentrations of all nutrients. COVER VALUE : Clearcutting of mature forests generally creates favorable habitat for deer and elk. Vine maple, along with other shrubs which make up seral brushfields following logging, affords deer and elk good cover. The Pacific silver fir/vine maple/coolwort foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata) and the western hemlock/vine maple/western swordfern plant associations provide good summer range for deer and elk. The dense shrub layer provides good hiding cover [25,26]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : There is little information of the use of vine maple for rehabilitation. Other maples have been used for wildlife habitat improvements and native landscaping [30]. When considering vine maple for these purposes, transplanting nursery grown seedlings will probably show the best results. Guides for producing nursery grown maple (Acer spp.) seedlings for transplanting are available [17,25]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Vine maple is an ornamental shrub used in landscaping. Native Americans called this maple "basket tree" because they weaved baskets with the long straight stems [2]. Native Americans also carved the wood into numerous household utensils such as spoons, bowls, and platters, and used the branches for scoop nets to take salmon [13]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Following logging, vine maple along with other shrubs often form dense brushfields that can severely interfere with the establishment of conifer seedlings [9,10,16]. To aid in conifer seedling establishment, chemical or mechanical shrub reduction or removal may be needed. Many mechanical and manual shrub reduction methods include pulling, scalping, cutting, and mechanical clearing [20,31]. Cutting may prove ineffective at reducing vine maple, as sprouts normally regrow rapidly from established root systems. Scarifying sites with bulldozers or other machines after logging has proven effective. Up to 75 percent mortality of vine maple has occurred under this treatment [15]. Chemical sprays have been widely used for controlling shrub growth in the Pacific Northwest. Since sprays are more effective on resprouting plants than on mature plants, maximum control can be achieved on plants resprouting after logging or burning [26]. Glyphosate, picloram, triclopyr, and imazapyr appear to be effective at killing this maple; however, it is resistant to 2,4-D even at the highest rates [6]. Many guides detailing the proper rates and application of chemicals for controlling vine maple are available [6,26,31]. Sheep grazing of young conifer plantations is an effective method of controlling undesirable shrub species. Browsing clearcuts during the summer when vine maple and other target brush species are most palatable to sheep, but when conifer seedling palatability to sheep is at a seasonal low, can significantly reduce vine maple standing crop [18].


SPECIES: Acer circinatum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Vine maple is a long-lived, shade-tolerant, deciduous shrub or small tree which shows a high degree of variation in growth form. Stems may be erect or vertical, leaning, arched or convex with branch tips anchored by roots, or prostrate with the end of the stem turned upwards [2]. When found in the open this maple often grows as a dense shrub or small tree with numerous erect stems. Under favorable conditions plants in these open habitats occasionally grow up to 30 feet (9.1 m) tall with 8- to 12-inch diameter (20-30 cm) trunks [31,51,61]. Plants shaded by a coniferous overstory, however, commonly have prostrate stems that root where a stem touches the ground. A study conducted on the west slope of the Cascades in central Oregon found that vine maple growing in 7- to 22-year-old clearcuts averaged 34 76-inch (195 cm) erect stems per plant [51]. Nearby plants growing under mature conifers were much less erect and averaged only three stems per plant, which were only 60 percent longer than stems of plants in clearcuts. The bark of vine maple is thin, smooth, and bright reddish brown [20]. The leaves are round to cordate, palmately seven- to nine-lobed, serrate, and 1.2 to 2.4 inches (3-6 cm) long [19]. The fruit is a rose-colored double samara. The 0.5- to 1-inch-long (1.2-2.5 cm) wings are widely divergent in a nearly straight line. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Vine maple is a very poor seed producer and relies primarily on vegetative means of reproduction [2]. Vegetative regeneration: Plants sprout from the root crown following top-kill from logging or burning. Vine maple distribution in early seral communities is therefore primarily dependent upon its predistubance distribution [6]. In early seral stands, layering occurs infrequently, but as plants mature some stems become too long and massive to remain erect and thus lay prostrate and root where the stem touches the ground [51]. Therefore layering probably increases with stand age. Studies in western Oregon indicate that vine maple reproduces almost exclusively by layering when under stands of old growth conifers [2,51]. In these studies, new plants originating from seed were extremely rare or absent from both clearcuts and mature stands. Sprouts may also arise from shallow lateral roots that have become exposed to light [2]. Seed production and dispersal: Vine maple begins to produce seed at an early age, probably before age 10 [49]. The flowers appear in the spring when the leaves are about half grown [31]. Flowers occur in loose drooping clusters that hang from the end of the branchlets. Male and female organs occur in the same flower; however, in each flower only male or female organs are functional. Thus only a few flowers from each cluster develop into fruit [31]. The fruit consists of two fused samaras which eventually separate on shedding. Each samara contains a single seed without endosperm. Small quantities of seed are produced annually. The winged seeds are dispersed in the fall by wind; however, dissemination of samaras in mature stands is probably restricted, since strong winds normally do not prevail in coniferous understories [2]. Seeds average approximately 5,000 per pound (11,000/kg) [49,62]. Seed viability and germination: Vine maple seeds have a dormant embryo which requires approximately 6 months of chilling to germinate [11]. Under natural conditions the seeds are dispersed in the fall and germinate in the spring. Studies have shown that vine maple seedlings are rare or absent from both clearcuts and mature stands [2,51]. This lack of seedlings may possibly be attributed to: (1) the consumption of a high proportion of samaras by squirrels, chipmunks, and insects, (2) a thick moss layer or dense growth of other shrubs which often prevents seeds from reaching mineral soil, and (3) poor germination [2]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Vine maple is typically found as an understory shrub or small tree that grows in moist forests composed of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, western redcedar, Sitka spruce, Port Orford-cedar, or Pacific silver fir [1,3,4,18,24,67]. It is also common along streambanks and alluvial terraces, in forest openings and clearcuts, and on talus slopes and the lower portions of open slopes [18,22,31,52]. Soils: Vine maple is an indicator of well-drained, moist soils. Soils are deep, often exceeding 40 inches (100 cm). Textures vary from clay loams to sandy or rocky [15,25,26]. Overstory relationship: Although this maple grows under dense shade and has been classified by some authors as shade tolerant [3,37,61], many researchers have found that both cover and frequency of vine maple are much lower under dense conifer overstories than under more open overstories [5,24,51]. Vine maple is more abundant under Douglas-fir than under western hemlock or western redcedar [2,61]. This may be attributed to the greater amount of light which typically penetrates through Douglas-fir canopies compared to hemlock [2] or possibly to alleleopathic chemicals produced by western hemlock which inhibit the growth of vine maple [12]. Associated species: Associated shrubs include red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), Sitka alder, oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), California hazel (Corylus cornuta), Oregon-grape (Berberis nervosa), salal (Gaultheria shallon), Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum), trailing blackberry (Rubus ursinus), twinflower (Linnaea borealis), Alaska huckleberry (Vaccinium alaskaense), blue huckleberry (V. membranaceum), and baldhip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa). Associated herbs include western swordfern, coolwort foamflower, beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), waterleaf (Hydrophyllum spp.), baneberry (Actaea rubra), and common whipplea (Whipplea modesta) [1,2,4,15,24,25]. Elevation: Vine maple is a low elevation species found mostly below 3,000 feet (914 m) in Washington and northwestern Oregon, and below 5,500 feet (1,676 m) in southwestern Oregon and California [3,67]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Vine maple is found in both seral and climax stages of forest succession, but cover and frequency are highest in early seral stages. Since this maple is a root-sprouter, its distribution following clearcutting or fire closely resembles its distribution in climax forests [5,6]. Cover of vine maple through different seral stages fluctuates with changes in the overstory. Cover seems to be inversely proportional to overstory density. A western Oregon study found that cover of vine maple under dense old-growth Douglas-fir was about 5 percent, but about 24 percent in light spots [5]. In western redcedar-western hemlock-Douglas-fir forests, vine maple cover may be initially reduced following logging [13,14,54] but then gradually increases for the next 25 to 30 years. At this time vine maple cover decreases, due to shading from a young conifer overstory, but vine maple cover will again increase as succession proceeds if conifer mortality creates light spots in the understory [5,30,51,54]. Successional studies of coniferous forests in the Pacific Northwest show that following fire or logging, herbaceous cover usually dominates for the first few years [18]. Within 4 or 5 years dense shrub communities normally develop. These are often composed of residual shrubs, such as vine maple, trailing blackberry, salal, Pacific rhodendron, and Oregon-grape [18]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Flowering normally occurs from April through June, when the leaves are about half grown [25,49,52]. The fruits generally ripen in September or October, after which seed is dispersed through November [49]. Before the leaves are shed in autumn, they turn various shades of yellow or red. Observation of leaf fall in two western Oregon watersheds showed that vine maple leaves began falling in early September and peaked the third week in October [10]. On one watershed, 94 percent of leaves fell within 3 weeks after the first frost [10].


SPECIES: Acer circinatum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Vine maple is well adapted to fire. Following aerial crown kill or destruction by fire, root crowns often produce numerous sprouts [6,51,63]. This long-lived, seral species often persists in the understory of late seral or climax coniferous stands. Its sprouting ability allows it to become part of the immediate postfire community when the conifer overstory is removed or killed [6,51]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex


SPECIES: Acer circinatum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Most fires top-kill vine maple; however, plants normally resprout from the root crown [6,21,51,63]. Successional trends in the western Cascades of Oregon show that vine maple cover and frequency are dramatically reduced following fire [14,21]. The amount of this initial reduction may be related to fire severity. A study of broadcast-burned clearcuts in western Oregon found that vine maple was abundant on lightly burned plots (surface litter charred but not completey removed) but very scarce on heavily burned plots (surface litter completely consumed by intense fire) [14,20]. Similarly, observation of fire effects on Rocky Mountain maple (Acer glabrum) plants in Montana show that hot fires (those which effectively transfer heat below the mineral soil surface) damage root crowns and thus prevent sprouting of some plants [51]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Vine maple produces numerous root crown sprouts the first growing season following burning [45,51,63]. Frequency and cover of vine maple drop dramatically following fire. Preburn levels may be reached as quickly as 2 to 5 years after fire [14,36] but may take up to 25 years [21,51]. Following wildfire or logging, vine maple/sword fern is a common seral community during the tall shrub stage of succession [6,18]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Acer circinatum
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