Skip to Main Content

Intro to Trees of Indiana: Boxelder

The classic and trusted book "Fifty Common Trees of Indiana" by T.E. Shaw was published in 1956 as a user-friendly guide to local species.  Nearly 70 years later, the publication has been updated through a joint effort by the Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Indiana 4-H, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and reintroduced as "An Introduction to Trees of Indiana."

The full publication is available for download for $7 in the Purdue Extension Education Store. The field guide helps identify common Indiana woodlot trees. 

Each week, the Intro to Trees of Indiana web series will offer a sneak peek at one species from the book, paired with an ID That Tree video from Purdue Extension forester Lenny Farlee to help visualize each species as it stands in the woods. Threats to species health as well as also insight into the wood provided by the species, will be provided through additional resources as well as the Hardwoods of the Central Midwest exhibit of the Purdue Arboretum, if available. 

Boxelder leaf line drawingThis week, we introduce Boxelder or Acer negundo.

This member of the maple family has opposite leaf arrangement, but is the only maple that features compound leaves, often with three to five leaflets. The shape of the leaflets is extremely variable, but all held on green twigs, unlike any other native Indiana maples. Boxelder bark is a medium gray color with long flat ridges running up and down the trunk.

Line drawing of boxelder winged seedsThe leaves of boxelder are often confused with poison ivy, however poison ivy features alternate leaf arrangement.

Boxelder flowers feature long strands of green or yellow green that hold the pollen. The fruit produced are paired winged seeds, which are often seen floating across the landscape.

Boxelder is frequently found growing in wet locations, such as bottomlands and forested sites near streams. They can help stabilize stream banks. Boxelder provides important habitat for many wildlife species and its seeds offer food for birds, squirrels and deer.

According to the U.S. Forest Service database, boxelder is not a desired timber species because its wood is light, soft, close grained and low in strength. The wood is occasionally used for cheap furniture and woodenware. It was once used for posts, fencing and fuel, but the soft, spongy wood generally makes poor firewood.

Featured Stories

Nathan Lutz as an Indiana conservation officer: with a pair of antlers, assisting a child shooting a bow, holding an owl, and with a family at a shooting range.
Alumnus Nathan Lutz Continues to Evolve in Career

Nathan Lutz, a 2017 interdisciplinary agriculture alumnus, never gave up the urge to complete...

Read More
Glee Club member Steven Kelly with his family
FNR Faces in the Crowd: Steven Kelly, Glee Club

One constant throughout his time at Purdue for senior aquatic sciences major Steve Kelly has been...

Read More
Chestnut Oak leaves
Intro to Trees of Indiana: Chestnut Oak

Meet the Chestnut Oak or Quercus montana, which has dark, deeply ridged bark; small, evenly lobed...

Read More
Swamp white oak leaves
Intro to Trees of Indiana: Swamp White Oak

Meet Swamp White Oak or Quercus bicolor, which has leaves with wavy, uneven lobed margins with...

Read More
Dr. Shaneka Lawson with her REM Presidential Safety Award
Lawson Named REM Presidential Safety Award Honoree

Dr. Shaneka Lawson, a USDA Forest Service Research Plant Physiologist and FNR adjunct assistant...

Read More
2022 John F. Datena Distinguished Forester Award honorees Burney Fischer, Joe Schuerman Jr., and Ken Day
Alumni Fischer, Schuerman Honored with Datena Distinguished Forester Award

Three foresters with exemplary careers, including two Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources...

Read More
To Top