August 04, 2020

What is a Boxelder Maple?

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If you spent time near a stream or river it's likely you've seen a Boxelder Maple tree but they can also be found in urban areas, lining streets and providing shade. Another sure sign you can't miss is seeing those little black and red boxelder bugs, which feed on the tree and which always seem to try to get indoors. While we have plenty of these in Utah, Boxelders are our found throughout the United States. 

Considered by many a "maple outcast", it is indeed in the maple family and the only native maple with more than one single blade or leaflet on a single leaf stalk. These trees help to shelter wildlife and stabilize stream banks. The trees can be crafted into a bonsai and are often used as a screen or windbreak. However, in urban areas, they are considered a type of weed and in fact, they have brittle, weak wood. That means that the trees break easily in wind and ice storms. It's seeds, found in winged samaras, a pale green seed that twirls if thrown up in the air and self-seed easily. These trees are also known as the ash-leaved maple. Although considered a less desirable tree by visual standards, Boxelder can be a huge asset in adverse tree sites. A boxelder in the landscape grows to a height of 25 to 50 feet and lives 75 to 100 years. Its drought tolerance makes the tree a great plant in dry country landscape and very easy on limited water resources. 

Fun historical fact: The lower trunk is fine-grained, used by Native Americans for bowls, dishes, pipestems, and drums. The inner bark was boiled into a tea that was used as an emetic, a medicine that causes vomiting. You can learn more about boxelder maples here and here