Herb: Mountain Maple

Latin name: Acer spicatum

Family: Aceraceae (Maple Family)

Medicinal use of Mountain Maple:

The North American Indians made an infusion of the pith of young twigs and used this as eye drops to soothe irritation caused by campfire smoke. The pith itself was used to remove foreign matter from the eyes. An infusion or poultice made from the outer bark has been used to treat sore eyes. A poultice made from boiled root chips has been applied externally to wounds and abscesses. A compound infusion of the roots and bark is used to treat internal haemorrhage.

Description of the plant:


10 m
(33 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Deep rich moist soils in cool habitats such as the edges of mountain streams, ravines or woodlands.

Edible parts of Mountain Maple:

A sugar is obtained from the sap. The sap can be used as a drink or boiled down to make maple syrup. The syrup is used as a sweetener on many foods. The sap can be harvested in late winter, the flow is best on a warm sunny day after a frost. Trees on southern slopes in sandy soils give the best yields. The best sap production comes from cold-winter areas with continental climates.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves are packed around apples, rootcrops etc to help preserve them. The bark contains tannins, but the report does not say in what quantity. The trees have an extensive root system that can be used to bind the soil. They are often grown on banks in order to prevent soil erosion. The wood is close-grained, soft and light, weighing 33lb per cubic foot.

Propagation of Mountain 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. It can be slow to germinate. 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. Plants often self-layer in the wild. 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. Strong plants are usually produced by this method.

Cultivation of the herb:

Deep rich moist soils in cool habitats such as the edges of mountain streams, ravines or woodlands.

Known hazards of Acer spicatum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.