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Boxelder (Acer negundo)

Boxelder Leaves Boxelder Twigs Boxelder Fruit


Boxelder is a relatively common tree along streams and other bottomland habitats but may also be found on drier sites. At the Arboretum it can be seen in several places such as along Old Kerr Hollow Road and near the lower end of Cemetery Ridge Trail. Its range includes much of North America and extends south to the mountains of Mexico and Guatemala. The pinnately compound leaves of Boxelder, typically with 5 to 7 toothed leaflets, distinguish it from other maples. Young trees often have only 3 leaflets and can be confused with poison ivy - however, Boxelder can be distinguished by its opposite leaves, green twigs with reddish brown upper surfaces, and lack of vine-like growth. This small to medium-sized tree (50-75 ft tall) is short-lived with an average age of 60 years. It is dioecious (the male and female flowers are borne on separate trees) and produces abundant fruits in drooping clusters that remain on the trees into the winter months. The winged seeds (samaras) provide food for birds and other wildlife. The brittle wood has limited value - it has been used for making boxes and low quality furniture. Its low heating value makes it a poor source for firewood. Boxelder is tolerant of drought and cold and, in the West, has been used as a street tree and for shelterbelts. Boxelder Bug, an insect associated primarily with female Boxelder trees, does relatively little damage to the trees, but as temperatures become colder in the fall, it may invade houses in large numbers and become an annoying pest.

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu