A low, deciduous tree, often scarcely more than a shrub, but sometimes over 30 ft high; branchlets glabrous. Leaves seven- or nine-lobed, almost circular in general outline, but heart-shaped at the base, 3 to 5 in. wide, the lobes unequally or doubly toothed; lower surface hairy when young, but ultimately almost glabrous; stalks stout, 1 to 11⁄2 in. long. Flowers in small corymbose clusters, each flower 1⁄2 in. across, the sepals reddish purple; petals smaller, dull white. Fruit with wings about 11⁄2 in. long, 3⁄8 in. wide, spreading almost horizontally, red when young.
Native of western N. America from British Columbia south to California; introduced by Douglas in 1826. This maple is very distinct, and one of the most ornamental in its flowers. In April, when well in bloom, the wine-coloured sepals contrasting with the whitish petals make a very pretty display, especially as they are associated with conspicuous crimson bud-scales. Its leaves frequently die off in beautiful red and orange-coloured shades. If it is desirable that it should form a trunk, the lower branches should be pruned off as the tree grows in height until sufficient clean stem has been formed. But, allowed to grow in its natural way, it makes a low, wide-spreading bush of pleasing form, often with the lower branches laid on the ground and taking root there. Owing to this peculiarity it forms impenetrable thickets in a wild state. It is an admirable subject for a lawn in a small garden.