The vine maple is a small tree that sometimes reaches a height of 20 m. It has a short, crooked trunk with spreading limbs and a roughly shaped crown. Vine maple can become a sprawling shrub that can get very thick.
Its leaves are almost circular, up to 11 cm in wide. They are a bright yellowish-green on top, pale green and downy underneath, turning red or yellow in the fall. The fruit consists of winged seeds, up to 4 cm long, joined in pairs, and borne in a cluster looking like upside-down helicopter wings.
It is mostly restricted to southwestern British Columbia, at low to mid-elevations. It occurs in most areas on Vancouver Island. Vine maple grows best in wet soils, particularly along the banks of streams and wet sites.
The Coast Salish people used vine maple occasionally for bows and frames for fishing nets and boiled the bark of the roots to make tea for colds.