Boxelder trees are one of the most popular maple species in North America. They grow from Canada to Mexico and have been used for lumber since ancient times. Today they are commonly known as “dwarf” or “smaller” maples because their size is not comparable with other types of maple trees such as American white oak (Quercus alba) or Norway spruce (Picea abies). However, boxelder trees are still very large compared to other kinds of maples. Their diameter ranges between 15 and 20 feet, which makes them suitable for use as shade trees. The bark of these trees is dark brown to black in color and it grows up to 6 inches thick. These trees produce cones about every two years. They mature at a slightly slower rate than other varieties of maple but usually reach maturity within 10 years, although some may take up to 25 years before reaching full height.
The leaves of boxelder trees are small, oval-shaped and greenish-yellow in color. They grow from the top of the trunk to the base of the branches. The flowers appear on the branch tips in spring and summer. The fruit is a seed pod that contains seeds that germinate when water is added to them.
Young trees tend to produce more flowers than older specimens, which will have fewer but larger leaves.
Baby boxelder trees are usually grafted from a branch cutting taken from a mature tree. The process is simple and can be done at home as long as appropriate care is given. One of the secrets to successfully growing a box elder tree from seed is to keep the soil very moist but not water-logged. The tree also requires partial shade, particularly during its first 10 years.
Gardeners in locations with consistently hot temperatures should plant their box elders deep so that only the leaf tips are exposed.
: There is a common name used for various species of maple trees and that is box elder. This refers to five different trees that belong to the genus Acer. All of them produce seeds in the same shape, which are called “box elder seeds.” The five different trees that produce these seeds in North America are:
False box elder (Acer negundo)
Western box elder (Acer negundo var. negundo)
Ohio box elder (Acer negundo var. pensylvanicum)
Common box elder (Acer negundo var. negundo)
Rocky Mountain box elder (Acer negundo var. scopulorum)
Acer negundo is also known as the Ash-leaved Maple, Fender Maple, Manitoba Maple and Optical Maple. It is native to temperate areas of North America and has been introduced to other parts of the world as an ornamental tree. It is valued for its bright autumn color, which is usually yellow but can also be orange or red. The leaves are also somewhat rounded, which distinguishes it from other types of maples.
The bark of the box elder tree is similar to that of the American elm (Ulmus americana), with papery layers that tend to curl up as they get older. It can also be rough and scaly. The flowers are small and arranged in long, hanging chains from early spring to early summer. These trees produce winged seeds that mature in autumn and can be found littering the ground beneath the trees.
The box elder tree is one of only a few kinds of maple trees that can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 and 4. It can also be grown in zone 5 but will only survive if the climate stays cold or becomes colder during the winter months. This tree will not grow well in hot, humid climates, such as those found in USDA zones 8 through 10.
The box elder tree can reach a height of 50 feet with a spread of half that. It has few branches and a rounded crown. The bark is a dull grey in young trees but darkens to a grey-brown and develops shallow fissures with age. The leaves are opposite and palmately compound, with five to seven elliptical leaflets with serrated margins.
They usually measure between 3 and 6 inches (7.6 and 15 cm) in length. The small flowers appear in spring and are either cream or pale yellow in color. They are very small, less than 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) in length, and are wind-pollinated.
Many people plant box elder trees along highways and streets due to their tolerance for urban conditions. They also do well in drier, calcareous soils that other sorts of maples cannot tolerate. It has been noted that the bark and leaves contain a substance that can irritate the skin, similar to poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).
The wood of the box elder tree is soft and weak. It has historically been used for making cheap furniture and crates but is not in great demand. In Japan, the wood of some box elder trees is used for making bowls while other box elder trees have multiple shoots growing from the roots and are used for bonsai.
Many people dislike the box elder tree due to the messy seeds that cover sidewalks and streets during the autumn. There are also a number of allergies associated with box elder trees, including asthma, hay fever and eczema.
Sources & references used in this article:
Common trees of the Missouri River bottoms: a guide for students by MR Relief – 2017 – mospace.umsystem.edu
Seasonal pasture myopathy/atypical myopathy in N orth A merica associated with ingestion of hypoglycin A within seeds of the box elder tree by SJ Valberg, BT Sponseller, AD Hegeman… – Equine veterinary …, 2013 – Wiley Online Library
Seasonal abundance and habits of the boxelder bug, Boisea trivittata (Say), in an urban environment. by KM Yoder, WH Robinson – Proceedings of the Entomological …, 1990 – cabdirect.org