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Acer negundo (Box elder)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Acer negundo

Acer negundo L.

Box Elder, Box Elder Maple, Ash-leaved Maple, Ashleaf Maple, Red River Maple, Fresno De Guajuco

Aceraceae (Maple Family)


USDA Symbol: acne2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Small to medium-sized tree, commonly with a short trunk and widely spreading branches and light green foliage. It doesn’t look like other maples because of its irregular growth, sprouting base, and compound leaves. Fall foliage is usually insignificant.

Box Elder is classed with maples, having similar, paired key fruits, but is easily distinguishable by the pinnately compound leaves. Hardy and fast-growing, it is planted for shade and shelterbelts but is short-lived and easily broken in storms. Common and widely distributed, it is spreading in the East as a weed tree. The common name indicates the resemblance of the foliage to that of elders (Sambucus) and the whitish wood to that of Box (Buxus sempervirens L.).


From the Image Gallery

35 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Leaf Shape: Elliptic
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Puberulent
Leaf Margin: Lobed , Serrate
Leaf Apex: Acute
Leaf Base: Rounded
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious
Inflorescence: Raceme
Fruit Type: Samara
Size Notes: Up to about 50 feet tall.
Leaf: Opposite, pinnately compound, with 3, 5, or 7 leaflets; each leaflet elliptic to ovate, pointed at the tip, tapering or rounded at the base, usually coarsely toothed along the edges, light green and smooth on the upper surface, paler on the lower surface, up to 4 inches long.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Flower: Flowers insignificant. Male and female borne on separate trees, several in a cluster, greenish yellow, appearing as the leaves begin to unfold.
Fruit: Samaras 1-seeded, pale yellow, many, in long, drooping clusters, each one 1 1/2-2 inches long, maturing in autumn and persisting in the spring.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NS , NT , ON , PE , QC , SK
Native Distribution: ME to Man., s. to n. FL & e. TX; also n. CA to CO, s. to s. Mex.
Native Habitat: Moist woods; stream banks; floodplains

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Variable.


Use Ornamental: This hardy, fast-growing tree can survive dry and extremely cold conditions, so it is widely planted as a shade and shelterbelt tree.
Use Wildlife: Birds, Other Showy Insects
Use Food: Plains Indians made sugar from the sap. When sugar was scarce, Prairie settlers sometimes tapped this tree to make maple syrup, but Manitoba maple is the least productive maple for this purpose.
Warning: The wood is weak and will break up in ice and wind.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Honey Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Cecropia silkmoth
(Hyalophora cecropia)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Nueces River Authority - Uvalde, TX
Natural Biodiversity - Johnstown, PA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Jacob's Well Natural Area - Wimberley, TX
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 354 - Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country (1981) Lynch, D.
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Acer negundo in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Acer negundo in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Acer negundo


Record Modified: 2022-09-15
Research By: NPC, JSC

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