fbpx Boxelder | The Morton Arboretum


Leaves of the boxelder tree.

Boxelder is actually a maple tree. This native tree, while very cold hardy, is not widely sold due to its ability to self-seed aggressively. It also attracts boxelder bugs which often enter homes in fall. 

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

Botanical name:

Acer negundo

All common names:

boxelder, box elder, ash-leaved maple

Family (English):

Soapberry (formerly Maple)

Family (Botanic):

Sapindaceae (formerly Aceraceae)

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet),
  • medium tree (25-40 feet)

Mature Height:

30-50 feet

Mature Width:

30-50 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Wet soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Aggressive,
  • Excessive sucker growth,
  • Highly susceptible to ice damage,
  • Messy fruit/plant parts,
  • Weak wood and branch structure

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Irregular,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Browsers,
  • Insect pollinators,
  • Seed-eating birds,
  • Small mammals

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

The species is able to grow in a wide range of conditions. 

Disease, pests, and problems

Seedlings from this tree make it a weedy species.
A weak wooded tree prone to storm damage.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 0

Native to low, wet areas.  It has spread into disturbed sites and common in urban situations.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is brown with very shallow ridges.  Young stems are distinctively green and covered with a white, waxy coating.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

This maple has compound leaves with 3 to 5 (sometimes 7) irregularly toothed leaflets.  Leaves are in pairs (opposite) with the leaf ranging from 6 to 8 inches long.
Leaves light green in summer with very little fall color change.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male and female flowers generally on separate trees.  Not ornamentally important.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit on female trees only.  Pairs of winged seeds (samaras), hanging in clusters.

Location of Acer negundo (Boxelder) at the Arboretum