The Boxelder is a hardy, fast-growing maple tree native to North America and is widespread in Minnesota. Leaves are light green with 2-5 toothed, pinnate leaflets, and flowers are yellowish-green clusters, divided between male and female trees. Boxelders are the only native maple with compound leaves, and one of the few maple species with separate male and female trees (dioecism). Female flowers develop in March and April, and develop into the typical winged samaras that fall throughout the fall and winter.
Boxelders grow aggressively in natural areas as they are adaptable to a wide variety of soil types and can tolerate both floods and droughts. They are rarely grown in managed landscapes due to their weak wood and unremarkable fall foliage, but boxelders’ bright flowers can add color to spring landscapes. There are many boxelders throughout the University of Minnesota’s campus, although there is currently little research conducted on the species. Norman Borlaug, namesake of Borlaug Hall, got his start researching boxelder wood deterioration for his M.S. at the University of Minnesota in 1941.
The biggest problem associated with boxelders is their brittle wood, which can lead to fast rotting and decay, and the boxelder bug, which does not harm the tree but can be a nuisance in gardens and near homes.