Native Plant Database

Header Photo: Mervin Wallace

Box Elder

Acer negundo
Plant Type: Trees
Native Environment: Forest, Stream Edge
Season of Interest: Mid (May - June), Late (July - frost), Winter (Nov - Mar)
Main Color: Green
Fall Color: Yellow

USDA PLANTS Range Map

At the range map link above, zoom in for county-level data

Box elder tree in a landscape.
Photo: Jan Samanek, Phytosanitary Administration, Bugwood.org, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Sun Exposure 
Full Sun, Medium Sun/Average Shade
Soil
Moisture
Moderate, High, Wet
Nature Attracting
Songbirds
Wildlife Benefit
Food/Birds, Food/Small Animals
Animal
Resistance
Size

Height:

30 to
50
feet

Spread:

30 to
50
feet
Size
Height: 30 to
50
feet
Spread: 30 to
50
feet
Size
Height: 30 to
50
feet
Spread: 30 to
50
feet
Typical Landscape Use
Fast-growing tree, particularly good for wet spots where other shade-tolerant trees won't grow. Good for streambank stabilization.
Establishment and Care Instructions
When selecting material to grow, note that the female trees produce winged seeds and male trees produce pollen. Can grow in many soils including those that are dry and infertile, but does best in soil that is medium to wet. As the wood is not especially strong, may require pruning to influence and maintain structure. Seal any openings in nearby buildings to prevent box elder bugs from invading when weather turns cold.
Special Features
Special Usage
Basic Description

Wind-pollinated tree in the maple family, medium in size with a broad, irregular crown. Rare among maples for its compound leaves, having three to five light- or medium-green leaflets, and dioecious habit, growing as separate male and female trees with females bearing the winged fruit typical of maples. Host for black-and-orange box elder bugs, which don’t harm the tree but can exist in large numbers.

Green leaves of box elder tree

Box elder leaves. Photo: Carol Davit.

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