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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Trees and Shrubs > Boxelder

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Boxelder (Acer negundo)

Kathy Zuzek and Rebecca Koetter

Plant description

Mature height: 35 to 60'
Mature width: 35 to 60'
Growth rate: Fast
Plant form: Rounded to broadly round, irregular
Deciduous or evergreen: Deciduous
Native range: Maine south to Florida, west to Washington south through California
Native to Minnesota: Yes
Invasive in Minnesota: No

Culture

Light: Prefers full sun, tolerates partial shade
Soil texture: Sandy loams to clay
Soil pH: Prefers 6.5 to 7.5, tolerates 5.0 to 6.5
Soil moisture: Dry to wet soils and excessively drained to poorly drained soils
Hardiness zone: 2 to 9
Pests and stresses: Visit What's wrong with my plant? – Maple for a list of the most common maple pests and stresses in Minnesota.
Other: Withstands drought and flooding, sensitive to salt spray and phenoxy herbicides such as 2,4-D.

Boxelder in the landscape

Boxelder is a native, fast-growing maple tree. In the wild, it grows throughout Minnesota except for the far northeastern corner of the state. It is found commonly on river floodplains and along lakeshores and streams, but also grows in young hardwood forests on upland sites. Boxelder is very soil adaptable and is an aggressive colonizer that often grows in fence rows, in abandoned fields, and in vacant or disturbed urban lots. Although this species is fast-growing and tolerant of drought and flooding, it is of little value in horticultural landscapes. It has limited ornamental appeal and its brittle, weak wood is easily damaged in wind and ice storms.

Flowers and leaves emerge in Minnesota from mid-April to late May. Trees are either male or female and yellow-green wind-pollinated flowers add colorful interest to spring landscapes. Boxelder is the only native maple that has a compound leaf. 3-7" leaves made up of 3-7 toothed leaflets are produced opposite of each other along branches. In mid-summer, female trees attract boxelder bugs that can become a nuisance in landscapes. In August and September, the winged nutlets or samaras ripen on female trees. They are shed through autumn and winter and germinate readily in spring to produce seedlings that may become a nuisance weed in gardens. Fall color is yellow.

Cultivars have been developed with variegated or colorful foliage, improved plant habit, and red fall color. No cultivars are currently marketed in Minnesota.

Closeup of the male flowers on a boxelder tree.

Karan A. Rawlins, University of GA, Bugwood.org

Male flowers

Map showing the native range of boxelder in North America.

USDA, NRCS Plants Database

Native range of boxelder in North America

Map showing the native range of boxelder in Minnesota.

Minnesota DNR

Native range of boxelder in Minnesota

Full picture of a boxelder in the summer.

T. DeGomez, University of AZ, Bugwood.org

Boxelder in summer

Closeup of the leaves of a boxelder.

R. Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org

Summer foliage with 3 leaflets in each leaf

Dried up seeds on a boxelder in the fall.

R. Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org

Seed in fall

2016

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