Maple Valley, WA was rated by Family Circle Magazine in 2011 as one of the top 10 towns in the US for families. Settlement in the area began in 1879 when three men who were improving a trail brought their families in. When it was time to choose a name for the future community, two names were proposed. The names proposed were: Vine Maple Valley and Maple Ridge. A vote was taken by writing the names on slips of paper and placing them in a hat. Vine Maple Valley won by a 3/2 vote. Someone at the post office decided that Vine Maple Valley was too long and the name was shortened to Maple Valley. I was surprised to learn that the post office could arbitrarily change the name of a community.
"So, what's in a name?" you may ask. Well, depending on the name Vine Maple Valley or Maple Valley, two different images come to mind. The vine maple is a small, hardy, native species growing to a height of about 25 to 35 feet. This tree has what I would call as relatively small leaves (between 2.5 to 3.5 inches across. As shown in the photos, the leaves are a pleasant shade of green. In the fall, the leaves turn to a brilliant red. Its small size and seasonal colors make it an excellent choice for those choosing to use native, non-invasive plant species for landscaping in the Pacific Northwest. As kids, we used vine maples as natural, jungle-gyms.
Big Leaf Maple
The big leaf maple, also known as the Oregon maple, a native species, is a large, stately tree growing up to 100 feet. The average height is around 80 feet. True to its name, the big leaf maple has huge leaves, often growing to over a foot across! The tree may live for hundreds of years and grows large enough that its wood is often made into lumber used in manufacturing furniture, flooring and more. The big leaf maple may be tapped in the winter and the sap collected can be made into maple syrup. The sugar content of the sap in about the same as the sugar maple that grows in the northeast. Interestingly, the season to collect sap for maple syrup is up to six months in the Pacific Northwest while the season in the northeast only lasts about six weeks.
So, What's in a Name?
While either name is an appropriate name for the City of Maple Valley, WA, as both tree species grow in abundance in the local forests, I found the evolution of the name to be quite interesting. It is amazing, though, that depending on which tree is pictured as the namesake for the City of Maple Valley, the feeling does change a bit.