Herb: Rock Maple

Latin name: Acer glabrum

Family: Aceraceae (Maple Family)

Medicinal use of Rock Maple:

A decoction of the wood and bark is said to cure nausea. Another report says that this is specifically the nausea caused by smelling a corpse. An infusion of the bark has been used as a cathartic. A decoction of the branches, together with the branches of Amelanchier sp., was used to heal a woman's insides after childbirth and also to promote lactation.

Description of the plant:


9 m
(30 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Edges of mountain streams, on rocks and in coniferous woods, 1500 - 2000 metres.

Edible parts of Rock Maple:

Edible young shoots - cooked. They are used like asparagus. The seedlings, gathered in early spring, are eaten fresh or can be dried for later use. The dried crushed leaves have been used as a spice. Seeds - cooked. The wings are removed and the seeds boiled then eaten hot. The seeds are about 6mm long. Inner bark. No more details are given but inner bark is often dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread. An emergency food, it is usually only used when all else fails.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves are packed around apples, rootcrops etc to help preserve them. A fibre obtained from the inner bark is used for making mats, rope etc. The bark has been used to make spoons, paint containers etc. Wood - tough, hard, heavy, close grained, pliable. It weighs 37lb per cubic foot. The wood can also be used as friction sticks. The green wood can be moulded. The wood is too small for commercial exploitation, though it makes a good fuel. It was often used by native North American Indian tribes for making small items such as snowshoes, drum hoops, bows and pegs.

Propagation of Rock Maple:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, it usually germinates in the following spring. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours and then stratify for 2 - 4 months at 1 - 8C. The seed has a hard coat and can be slow to germinate, often taking 2 years. The seed can be harvested "green" (when it has fully developed but before it has dried and produced any germination inhibitors) and sown immediately. It should germinate in late winter. If the seed is harvested too soon it will produce very weak plants or no plants at all. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on until they are 20cm or more tall before planting them out in their permanent positions. Layering, which takes about 12 months, is successful with most species in this genus. Cuttings of young shoots in June or July. The cuttings should have 2 - 3 pairs of leaves, plus one pair of buds at the base. Remove a very thin slice of bark at the base of the cutting, rooting is improved if a rooting hormone is used. The rooted cuttings must show new growth during the summer before being potted up otherwise they are unlikely to survive the winter. It is very difficult to find suitable wood for cuttings.

Cultivation of the herb:

Edges of mountain streams, on rocks and in coniferous woods, 1500 - 2000 metres.

Known hazards of Acer glabrum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.