Boxelder

Scientific Name: Acer negundo
Family Name: Aceraceae




Leaves: Pinnately compound, opposite leaves that are 6 in. (15 cm.) long. There are 3 –7 leaflets in a leaf, which are 2 – 4 in. (5 – 10 cm.) long. The leaflets are elliptically shaped and grow in pairs, except for the one on the tip of the leaf, which stands alone. They are saw-toothed and are often irregularly lobed. Twigs are sometimes purplish or white flecked.

Tree: Boxelder is a small tree, only growing from 30 – 60 ft. (9 - 18 m.), and the trunk's diameter is up to 2.5 ft. (.8 m.).

Fruit: Flat, paired keys containing one seed with long wings. The seeds mature in the summer, but remain attached throughout the winter.

Identifying Characteristics: Boxelder bears a strong resemblance to poison ivy, but it is recognizable because poison ivy's only growth form is as a vine, whereas boxelder's only growth form is as a sapling and then a tree.

Location: We found Boxelder on the Brandeis University growing inside the quadrangle formed by the science complex, next to the Kalman building. This particular example of boxelder grew from a very inhospitable habitat of concrete.

History and Comments: Boxelder is native to the United States, but not to Massachusetts. It spread to Massachusetts, because it prefers to grow in disturbed lands, particularly in cities, and such areas proliferate in Massachusetts. Boxelder wood is weak, causing the tree to be short lived and to break during storms.



    Unless otherwise specified, all text, photographs, and drawings are Copyright (c) by Shu-Yee Chen and Deborah Hamer 2003. No part of this page may be reproduced without prior written consent of the authors.