Box elder is a much maligned species of maple with compound leaves, usually trifoliate, but with up to seven leaflets. Although it is a native throughout much of North America, it is not often used in the landscape because of its weak branches and often irregular habit. It is also host to the cute but pesky box elder bug. It is extremely hardy and adaptable to any kind of soil, from clay to sand. The seedlings sprout readily in moist areas, and with its three-part leaves, resemble poison ivy, except that the branching is opposite, not alternate. Box elders are dioecious, with female and male flowers on separate plants, blooming in March at the first hint of warm weather. The male flowers are lime-green with a tinge of red; they dangle on long white pedicels. On female trees, the clusters of seeds, two-winged samaras, are persistent into winter. If given proper care and pruning, box elder can grow into a large shade tree with a broadly rounded shape.
Attracts Birds, Native to Midwest