Wood for the future

From trees to tonewood.

“At Utopia, we’re trying to answer the question: Is figure in maple transmissible? We think it is.”

Finding Value in Maple

Utopia began in 2014 as a research project to grow more valuable wood for both foresters and guitar makers. We were interested in the question of whether figure in wood was genetically caused, and if it were, how we could grow figured trees that would be suitable for musical instruments. Long sought after by luthiers for its beauty, fiddleback maple occurs in rare individuals of big leaf maple, which is native to the Pacific Northwest. We began our program on 74 acres of farmland in the Skagit Valley, by propagating cuttings from trees that exhibited extraordinary figure. 

Fast Facts

3 Sites

For trials

8,000 Progeny

Maples planted

100 Cultivars

Of extraordinary maple

1-200 Cuttings

Per cultivation

Growing Good Trees

In order to grow good fiddleback maple trees of high value, we need to understand the silviculture of big leaf maple. So, in addition to our trials to determine which lines of trees are the most vigorous and hardy, we’re working to understand how to nurture, situate, space and prune our maples. Our studies and work at Utopia concern the whole life of the maple tree, and will require many years and a lot of resources, but this is a project that we love!

In learning how to grow robust figured maple trees, we hope to chart a path that will lead to more diverse regional forests of greater value, both for their wood and for their ecological functions. Good trees, well grown, in appropriate places.