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Box Elder Acer negundo


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Box Elder - leaves
credit: homeredwardprice (Homer Edward Price)/CCSA

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Alternate name: Ashleaf Maple

Family: Aceraceae, Maple view all from this family

Description A small, usually fast-growing and fairly short-lived tree. Shoots green, with a whitish to pink or violet waxy coating when young. Branches smooth, brittle, and retain a fresh green colour rather than forming a bark of dead, protective tissue. Bark pale gray to light brown, deeply cleft into broad ridges, and scaly. Leaves light green, turning yellow or red during fall, pinnately compound, three to seven leaflets. Leaflets 5–10 cm. long and 3–7 cm. wide, margins slightly serrated. Flowers small, on drooping racemes 10–20 cm. long. Seeds paired samaras, each slender, 1–2 cm. long, with a 2–3 cm. curved wing.

Dimensions Height: 9-18 m. (30-60 ft.)
Diameter: 0.8 m. (2 1/2 ft.).

Habitat Canyons & valleys, Cities, suburbs & towns, Fields, Watersides (fresh).

Range Northwest, Southeast, Great Lakes, Texas, Rocky Mountains, Western Canada, Plains, Southwest, New England, California, Mid-Atlantic, Florida.

Discussion Often has several trunks and can form impenetrable thickets. Simple leaves occasionally present; technically, these are single-leaflet compound leaves. Although some other maples have trifoliate leaves, only A. negundo regularly displays more than three leaflets.

Commercial use for decorative applications; turned items, bowls, stem-ware, pens. Primarily burl wood and injured wood, which develops a red stain.

Comments In the Rocky Mt. area, A. negundo var. interior is native. Var. negundo is apparently introduced in the Pacific Northwest. The species is a rapid grower, tolerant of city conditions, subject to wind and ice damage, and relatively short-lived. A well-grown box elder can make an attractive, drought-tolerant shade tree.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Native Distribution Maine to Manitoba, s. to n. Florida & e. Texas; also n. California to Colorado, s. to s. Mexico

Site Preference Moist woods; stream banks; floodplains

Soil Preference Variable.

Wildlife Value Winged fruit attracts birds and squirrels.