The subtle colors of California fall are washing across the landscape. The scattered patches of yellow you see starting to show up in the forest are probably bigleaf maple, or Acer macrophyllum. This native tree drops its leaves in the fall, and it is one of the few species around here that turns yellow before it turns brown.
Bigleaf maple is found along the west coast from central California to the Alaska panhandle. The sap can be made into maple syrup–but this isn’t done often since the yield is lower than from the eastern sugar maple. The timber is harvested commercially. The largest known bigleaf maple is eight feet in diameter.
This tall tree drops piles of soft leaves, and is used for wildlife habitat year-round. Bugs live in its furrowed bark, and birds (including harlequin duck and pileated woodpecker, where they occur) sometimes nest in the bigleaf maple–as does the dusky footed woodrat. Deer forage and bed down in the understory of the mixed forest that this tree generally grows in.