Boxelder, Acer negundo L.
Boxelder is the most widely distributed of all American maples,
and is sometimes also know as ash-leaf maple, California boxelder,
western boxelder and Manitoba maple. It is one of the most
common bottom land species throughout it's range, and has
become widely established in urban areas because of its ability
to produce large amounts of seed, sprout easily and tolerate
poor soil conditions. The tree was once used as an ornamental,
but planting boxelder is now uncommon because of its susceptibility
to disease and breakage, and its short life-span. The wood
of boxelder is light, soft and weak and not commonly used
for commercial lumber production.
· USDA Plant Guide for Red Maple: PDF File
· Species Description: Silvics of North American Hardwoods
· Virginia Tech Dendrology Fact Sheet for Boxelder
· University on Connecticut Plant Database
Boxelder has a broad, rounded crown, and commonly grows to
heights of over 60 feet. The bark is light gray-brown in color,
with shallow fissures, and resembles the bark of white ash.
Leaves are arranged oppositely along the twigs, and are pinnately
compound with 3 to 5 (or more) leaflets. Leaves are 5 to 8
inches long with leaflets of 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 2
inches wide. The leaflets are long pointed with course teeth
and often shallow lobes.
Boxelder flowers are yellow-green and about 5 mm long. Fruits
are winged samaras which occur in pairs and are clustered
on long stalks. Flowering occurs with or just before leaf-out,
and seeds are produced in late summer to early fall.
Boxelder has the widest distribution of any American maple.
It is found from the east coast of the US to California, and
from Alberta to southern Mexico and Guatemala. The tree has
also become naturalized outside its range, including Europe.
Boxelder is generally a bottomland tree, commonly found growing
on heavy, wet soils and along rivers where it can survive
periodic flooding. The tree is also common on disturbed sites
and in urban areas because of its ability to seed heavily,
germinate easily, and tolerate heavy soils and low oxygen
The wood of boxelder is light, weak and soft. Because of this
and the tree's poor form, it is rarely used for commercial
lumber production. The trees are sometimes used for pulp or
biomass fuel. Literature states that the sap is high in sugar
and can be used to make a syrup, but it is not typically used
for this purpose in New England.
The trees are fast growing and have been planted as street
trees, but their weak branches and short life make boxelders
a poor choice as an ornamental. Boxelder's fibrous root system
and prolific seeding make it valuable for erosion control,
and it has been planted in windbreaks and shelterbelts in
the Great Plains to help control wind erosion.
USDA, NRCS. 2001. Plant Guide; Boxelder. National Plant Data
Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.