Deciduous Trees

Deciduous Trees of Mount Rainier

Deciduous trees loose their leaves in fall, while conifer trees keep their leaves all year. Learn more about the different deciduous tree species found in Mount Rainier National Park.

Birch Family

Red Alder
Sitka Alder

Dogwood Family

Pacific Dogwood *

Maple Family

Bigleaf Maple
Douglas Maple *
Vine Maple

Rose Family

Bitter Cherry *
Wild Crabapple *

Willow Family

Black Cottonwood

* Identification descriptions pending.


Birch - Family Betulaceae

(Left) A tree covered in reddish catkins; (right top, left side) Close up of a hanging catkin; (right top, ride side) Close up of an oval toothed leaf on snow; (bottom right) small woody cones on snow
Red alder in spring covered in reddish catkins (left), with details of catkins (top right, left side), a leaf on snow (top right, right side), and cones on snow (bottom right).

NPS Photos

Red Alder
Alnus rubra

Prevalence: Abundant
Elevation: Low to mid-elevation rivers and streams and moist slopes throughout the park
Flowers: Reddish hanging spikes called catkins that appear before the leaves; male catkins 2-5 in (5-12 cm) and female catkins 0.7 in (2 cm) long
Seeds: Brown cones with winged nutlets that stay on the tree during the winter

Red alders are named for their reddish appearance in the spring when they are covered in catkins before the leaves appear. Leaves are alternate, oval, single-toothed, and with in-rolled edges. 5-6 in (5-15 cm) long, the leaves are also dark green and smooth on top, hairy and reddish underneath. Bark is grey and can be patchy with lichen. Red alder, in partnership with bacteria in their roots, can remove nitrogen and "fix" it (store it) in their roots, allowing alders to colonize rocky ground along rivers and other disturbed land unsuitable for most plants. They are fast growing and can be up to 80 ft (25 m) tall.

Combo image of a shrub (left) with a close up of catkins and cones on a branch (right).
Sitka alder shrubs along a path at Paradise, with the leaves and catkins emerging together (left), with details of catkins and previous year's cones on a branch (right).

NPS Photos

Sitka Alder
Alnus viridis

Prevalence: Scattered
Elevation: Mid-elevation open areas throughout the park
Flowers: Hanging spikes called catkins that appear at the same time as the leaves; male catkins 4-6 in (12-15 cm) and female catkins 0.5 in (1.5 cm) long
Seeds: Brown cones with winged nutlets that stay on the tree during the winter

Sitka alders are also known as "slide alders", perhaps because their many branches are often bent over by the weight of snow which "slides" off them. Leaves are double-toothed, have flat margins, and are rounded at the base. The leaves are also smooth and shiny on top, slightly sticky underneath, and turn brownish in fall. Bark is yellowish-brown. This shrub is found along streams, lake shores, and open slopes at mid-elevations.


Maple - Family Aceraceae

(Left) A moss-covered tree with bright yellow leaves shades a wood cabin; (top right) reddish leaves next to yellow flowers transitioning to winged seeds; (bottom right) Splotchy grey-brown tree trunk partly covered in snow and moss.
Bigleaf maple with bright yellow fall foliage (left). Details of flowers turning to seed (top right) and grey bark of a big leaf maple tree trunk (bottom right), partly covered in moss and snow.

NPS Photos

Bigleaf Maple
Acer macrophyllum

Prevalence: Scattered
Elevation: Low elevation river and stream areas, primarily on the southwest side of the park
Flowers: Greenish-yellow, on short stalks hanging in a cylindrical cluster
Seeds: Paired, winged seeds in a "V" shape, 1-2.5 in (3-6 cm) long

Bigleaf maple is a large tree that can be up to 100 ft (30 m) tall. Leaves are divided into 3-5 deep lobes and can be 12 in (30 cm) across! The leaves are dark green, paler underneath, and turn bright yellow in fall. Bigleaf maple trunks often support thick layers of moss and other plants, more than any other tree in the park. If not covered in moss, the bark is green and smooth in younger trees, becoming grey-brown and spotted with lichens in mature trees.

(Left) A small shrubby tree with reddish foliage; (upper right) bright green maple leaves with a cluster of white-red flowers; (bottom right) red winged seeds against dark red leaves.
Vine Maple next to a cabin (left); with details of vine maple flowers next to green leaves (top right) and seeds next to leaves turning red in the fall (bottom right).

NPS Photos

Vine Maple
Acer circinatum

Prevalence: Abundant
Elevation: Low to high elevation forests throughout the park
Flowers: White clusters with red sepals
Seeds: Red, winged pairs that spread wide to form a flat line, 0.7-1.5 in (2-4 cm) long

Vine maples are often shrub-like, but can be 16-30 ft (5-10m) tall with multiple trunks. Often an understory tree, their trunks can spread out horizontally to reach sun gaps, giving them a "vine"-like appearance. They are also common in open slopes along river drainages. Leaves have 7-9 toothed lobes and are bright green in summer, but turn a brilliant orange-red in fall. Bark is pale green in young branches, turning brown with age.


Willow - Family Salicaceae

(Left) A tall tree with yellow leaves; (top right) a cluster of green pointed leaves; (bottom right) A trunk with grey, grooved bark.
Black cottonwood turning yellow in fall (left) with details of leaves (top right) and grey trunk (bottom right).

NPS Photos

Black Cottonwood
Populus balsamifera

Prevalence: Abundant
Elevation: Low to mid-elevation river and stream areas throughout the park
Flowers: Catkins, with male and female on separate plants: male catkins 1.3-2.3 in (3.5-6 cm) and each flower with 30-60 stamens; female catkin 2-4 in (5-10 cm) and each flower has 3 stigmas
Seeds: Round and enveloped in white, cottony hairs

Black cottonwoods have straight trunks and can be up to 160 ft (50 m) tall. Leaves are alternate, heart-shaped to oval with a sharply-pointed tip, and a fine-toothed edge. Leaves turn yellow in fall. Buds are sticky with resin that has a sweet, balsamic fragrance. Bark is dark grey and deeply furrowed in older trees.

Last updated: August 7, 2023

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