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Boxelder

Tall, green tree with an irregular canopy
Boxelder in summer

Boxelder (Acer negundo) is a native, fast-growing maple tree, found throughout Minnesota except for the far northeastern corner of the state .

It is most common on river floodplains and along lakeshores and streams, but also grows in young hardwood forests.

Boxelder can grow in a wide variety of soil types and spreads fast, especially in fence rows, abandoned fields and vacant or disturbed urban lots.

Yellow-green flowers add some color to spring landscapes, but boxelder is not a very popular choice, due to its low ornamental value.

 

A leaf made up of three green leaflets
Summer foliage with 3 leaflets in each leaf
Brownish seeds in a cluster hanging from a branch
Seed in fall
Yellow-green thread-like flowers
Male flowers

Description

  • Deciduous; leaves drop in fall

  • Height: 35 to 60 feet

  • Width: 35 to 60 feet

  • Has a rounded to irregular form

  • Leaves: emerge in mid-April to late May; are 3-7 inches and are made up of of 3-7 leaflets. Only native maple with a compound leaf, leaves are opposite each other along branches.

  • Flowers: emerge in mid-April to late May; yellow-green wind-pollinated flowers on male and female tree

  • Fruit: winged nutlets or samaras ripen on female trees in August-September

  • Fruits shed through autumn and winter, produce seedlings in spring, and can prove to be weeds

Growing boxelder

  • Hardiness zone: 2 to 9

  • Prefers full sun, tolerates partial shade

  • Recommended soil properties:

    • Soil pH: 6.5 to 7.5, can tolerate 5.0 to 6.5

    • Sandy loams to clay

    • Dry to wet soils and excessively drained to poorly drained soils. Tolerates drought and flooding conditions

  • Have your soil tested by the U of M Soil Testing Lab

Common problems

  • Female trees affected by attack from boxelder bugs in mid-summer

  • Brittle, weak wood easily damaged in wind and ice storms

  • Sensitive to salt spray and phenoxy herbicides such as 2,4-D

Cultivated varieties of boxelder for Minnesota

Cultivars have been developed with colorful foliage, improved plant habit and red fall color.

No cultivars are currently marketed in Minnesota. The species in Minnesota produce yellow color in the fall.

Rebecca Koetter and Kathy Zuzek, former Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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