Fine Art

Acer negundo var. violaceum

Acer negundo var. violaceum , Photo: Michael Lahanas

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids II
Ordo: Sapindales

Familia: Sapindaceae
Subfamilia: Hippocastanoideae
Tribus: Acereae
Genus: Acer
Species: Acer negundo

Acer negundo L., Sp. Pl. 2: 1056 (1753).
Primary references

Linnaeus, C. 1753. Species Plantarum. Tomus II: 1056. Reference page.

Additional references

Murray, A.E., 1970. A monograph of the Aceraceae. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University. Reference page.
Gelderen, D.M. van, Jong, & Oterdoom, H.J. 1994. Maples of the world. Timber Press, Portland, Or., 458 pp. ISBN 0-88192-000-2. Reference page.
Govaerts, R.H.A. 1995. World Checklist of Seed Plants 1(1, 2). 483, 529 pp. MIM, Deurne. ISBN 90-341-0852-X (issue 1) ISBN 90-341-0853-8 (issue 2). Reference page.
Kral, R., Diamond, A.R., Ginzbarg, S., Hansen, C.J., Haynes, R.R., Keener, B.R., Lelong, M.G., Spaulding, D.D. & Woods, M. 2011. Annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Alabama. Sida Botanical Miscellany 36: 112 pp. Fort Worth: Botanical Reseach Institute of Texas. ISBN 978-1-889878-34-8 Reference page.
Mohlenbrock, R.H. 2014. Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide. 4th ed., 536 pp. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Ill. ISBN 978-0-8093-3208-3. Reference page.
Chester, E.W., Wofford, B.E., Shaw, J.T., Estes, D. & Webb, D.H. (eds.) 2015. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee. 813 pp., University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville. ISBN 978-1-62190-100-6. Reference page.
Gilman, A.V. 2015. New flora of Vermont. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 110: 1-614. ISBN 978-0-89327-516-7Reference page.
Villaseñor, J.L. 2016. Checklist of the native vascular plants of Mexico. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 87: 559–902. DOI: 10.1016/j.rmb.2016.06.017 Online PDF Reference page.
Werier, D. 2017. Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of New York State. Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 27: 1–542. JSTOR Reference page.


USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Acer negundo in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 08-Apr-12.

Barstow, M., Crowley, D. & Rivers, M.C. 2017. Acer negundo. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017. IUCN Red List Category: Least Concern. DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T62940A3117065.en.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2020. Acer negundo in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2020 January 11. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2020. Acer negundo. Published online. Accessed: 11 January 2020.

Vernacular names
català: Auró americà
čeština: Javor jasanolistý
dansk: Askebladet Løn
Deutsch: Eschen-Ahorn
English: Manitoba Maple
Esperanto: Manitoba acero
español: Arce negundo
suomi: Saarnivaahtera
français: Érable negundo
hornjoserbsce: Šědźiwy klon
magyar: Kőrislevelű juhar
italiano: Negundo
日本語: トネリコバノカエデ
lietuvių: Uosialapis klevas
latviešu: Ošlapu kļava
Nederlands: Vederesdoorn
norsk nynorsk: Asklønn
norsk: Asklønn
polski: Klon jesionolistny
русский: Клён ясенелистный
svenska: Asklönn
Türkçe: Dişbudak yapraklı akçaağaç
українська: Американський клен

Acer negundo, the box elder, boxelder maple, Manitoba maple or ash-leaved maple, is a species of maple native to North America. It is a fast-growing, short-lived tree with opposite, compound leaves. It is sometimes considered a weedy or invasive species, and has been introduced to and naturalized throughout much of the world, including in South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, much of Europe, and parts of Asia.[3][4]


Acer negundo is a fast-growing and fairly short-lived tree that grows up to 10–25 metres (35–80 feet) tall, with a trunk diameter of 30–50 centimetres (12–20 inches), rarely up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) diameter. It often has several trunks and can form impenetrable thickets.[4] The typical lifespan of box elder is only 60 years. Under exceptionally favorable conditions, it may live to 100 years.

The shoots are green, often with a whitish to pink or violet waxy coating when young. Branches are smooth, somewhat brittle, and tend to retain a fresh green color rather than forming a bark of dead, protective tissue. The bark on its trunks is pale gray or light brown, deeply cleft into broad ridges, and scaly.[5]

Unlike most other maples (which usually have simple, palmately lobed leaves), Acer negundo has pinnately compound leaves that usually have three to seven leaflets.[6] Simple leaves are also occasionally present; technically, these are single-leaflet compound leaves. Although some other maples (such as Acer griseum, Acer mandshuricum and the closely related A. cissifolium) have trifoliate leaves, only A. negundo regularly displays more than three leaflets. The leaflets are about 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long and 3–7 cm (1+1⁄4–2+3⁄4 in) wide with slightly serrate margins. Leaves have a translucent light green color and turn yellow in the fall.

The yellow-green flowers are small and appear in early spring, with staminate flowers in clusters on slender pedicels and pistillate flowers on drooping racemes 10–20 cm (4–8 in) long.

The fruits are paired samaras on drooping racemes, each seed slender, 1–2 cm (1⁄2–3⁄4 in) long, with a 2–3 cm (3⁄4–1+1⁄4 in) incurved wing; they drop in autumn or they may persist through winter. Seeds are usually both prolific and fertile.[5]

Unlike most other maples, A. negundo is fully dioecious and both a male and female tree are needed for reproduction to occur.


A few botanists treat boxelder maple in its own distinct genus (Negundo aceroides) but this is not widely accepted.
Common names

Indicative of its familiarity to many people over a large geographic range, A. negundo has numerous common names. The names "box elder" and "boxelder maple" are based upon the similarity of its whitish wood to that of boxwood and the similarity of its pinnately compound leaves to those of some species of elder.[7]

Other common names are based upon this maple's similarity to ash, its preferred environment, its sugary sap, a description of its leaves, its binomial name, and so on. These names include "Manitoba maple", "ash-leaf maple", "cut-leaved maple", "three-leaf maple", "ash maple", "sugar maple", "negundo maple", and "river maple".[8]

Names vary regionally. Box elder, boxelder maple, ash-leaved maple, and maple ash are among its common names in the United States. In Canada it is commonly known as Manitoba maple and occasionally as elf maple.[9] In the British Isles it is known as box elder[10] or ashleaf maple.[11] In Russia it is known as American maple (Russian: америка́нский клён, tr. amerikansky klyon) as well as ash-leaf maple (Russian: клён ясенели́стный, tr. klyon yasenelistny).

Because of its leaflets' superficial similarity to those of poison ivy, Acer negundo saplings are often mistaken for the allergenic plant. While both poison ivy and Acer negundo have compound leaves composed of three leaflets with ragged edges, Acer negundo exhibits an opposite branching pattern, as opposed to the alternating pattern of poison ivy.[12] Like poison ivy, Acer negundo is also a noted riparian species, and can often be found growing along riverbeds and in wet soils generally. For all these reasons, and despite their obvious differences, Acer negundo is sometimes referred to informally as the poison ivy tree.[13]

Acer negundo is often divided into three subspecies, each of which was originally described as a separate species. These are:

Acer negundo subsp. negundo, native from the Atlantic Coast to the Rocky Mountains.[4]
Acer negundo subsp. interius, with more leaf serration than the nominate subspecies and a more matte leaf surface, is native from Saskatchewan to New Mexico, between the other two subspecies.[4]
Acer negundo subsp. californicum, with larger leaves with a velvety texture, is found in parts of California and Arizona.[4]

Some authors further subdivide A. negundo subsp. negundo into a number of regional varieties but these intergrade and their maintenance as distinct taxa is disputed by many. Even the differences between recognized subspecies are probably a matter of gradient speciation.
Distribution and habitat
Acer negundo often grows alongside waterbodies
Growing as a weed in pavement crack in Russia

Acer negundo is native across much of the United States (mostly in the east)[6] and south-central Canada, and can be found as far south as Guatemala.

Although native to North America, it is considered a weedy species in some areas, such as in parts of the Northeastern United States, and has increased greatly in these areas.[14] In 1928, Joseph Illick, chief forester for the state of Pennsylvania, wrote in Pennsylvania Trees that box elder was "rare and localized" in the state. After World War II, box elder's rapid growth made it a popular landscaping tree in suburban housing developments despite its poor form, vulnerability to storm damage, and tendency to attract large numbers of box elder bugs. Intentional cultivation has thus made the tree far more abundant than it once was.

It can quickly colonize both cultivated and uncultivated areas and the range is therefore expanding both in North America and elsewhere. In Europe where it was introduced in 1688 as a park tree it is able to spread quickly and is considered an invasive species in parts of Central Europe, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, and Poland) where it can form mass growth in lowlands, disturbed areas, and riparian biomes on calcareous soils. It has also become naturalized in eastern China[4] and can be found in some of the cooler areas of the Australian continent where it is listed as a pest invasive species.

This species prefers bright sunlight. It often grows on flood plains and other disturbed areas with ample water supply, such as riparian habitats.[15] Human influence has greatly favored this species; it grows around houses and in hedges, as well as on disturbed ground and vacant lots.
Boxelder bugs (Boisea trivittata) feed on Acer negundo

Several birds and some squirrels feed on the seeds. The evening grosbeak uses them extensively.[16]

The boxelder bug (Boisea trivittata) lays its eggs on all maples, but prefers this species, clustering the eggs in bark crevices.[15] The rosy maple moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) also lays its eggs on the leaves of maple trees, including Acer negundo. The larvae feed on the leaves, and in very dense populations can cause defoliation.[17]

Small galls are formed on the leaves by a bladder mite, Aceria negundi. A gall midge, Contarinia negundinis joins and enlarges the galls of Aceria negundi. The midge sometimes creates a separate, tubular gall on the midrib or veins of the undersides of the leaves.[15]

The cottony maple leaf scale, Pulvinaria acericola, occurs on the foliage of Acer negundo.[15] A leaf spot fungus, Septoria negundinis creates black-ringed lesions on the leaves.[15]
'Variegatum' cultivar with white-margined leaves

Although its weak wood, irregular form, and prolific seeding might make it seem like a poor choice for a landscape tree, A. negundo is one of the most common maples in cultivation. Long-term success has been noted as far north as Yellowknife.[18] Many cultivars have been developed, such as:[4]

'Auratum' – yellowish leaves with smooth undersides
'Aureomarginatum' – creamy yellow leaf margins
'Baron' – Hardier & seedless variety
'Elegans' – distinctively convex leaves
'Flamingo' – pink and white variegation (very popular)
'Pendulum' – with weeping branches.
'Variegatum' – creamy white leaf margins
'Violaceum' – younger shoots and branches have bluish color

Acer negundo flowers

A protoxin present in the seeds of Acer negundo, hypoglycin A, has been identified as a major risk factor for, and possibly the cause of, a disease in horses, seasonal pasture myopathy (SPM). SPM is an equine neurological disease which occurs seasonally in certain areas of North America and Europe, with symptoms including stiffness, difficulty walking or standing, dark urine and eventually breathing rapidly and becoming recumbent. Ingestion of sufficient quantities of box elder seeds or other parts of the plant results in breakdown of respiratory, postural, and cardiac muscles. The cause of SPM was unknown for centuries despite the disease being well known among affected areas and was only positively determined in the 21st century.[19][20][21] It is analogous to Jamaican vomiting sickness in humans, also caused by hypoglycin A.

Acer negundo pollen, which is released in winter or spring (varying with latitude and elevation)[22] is a severe allergen.[22]
Heartwood of Acer negundo with red stain

Although its light, close-grained, soft wood is considered undesirable for most commercial uses, this tree has been considered as a source of wood fiber, for use in fiberboard. There is also some commercial use of the tree for various decorative applications, such as turned items (bowls, stem-ware, pens). Such purposes generally use burl or injured wood, as the injured wood develops a red stain.

The wood has been used for a variety of purposes by Native Americans, such as by the Navajo to make tubes for bellows,[23] by the Cheyenne to make bowls,[24] and by the native peoples of Montana who use the large trunk burls or knots to make bowls, dishes, drums, and pipe stems.[25] The Tewa use the twigs as pipe stems[26] and the Keres make the twigs into prayer sticks.[27]

The Dakota people and the Omaha people[28][29] make the wood into charcoal, which is used in ceremonial painting and tattooing.[30][28] The Kiowa burn the wood in the altar fire during the peyote ceremony.[31]

Acer negundo was identified as the material used in the oldest extant wood flutes from the Americas. The flutes, excavated by Earl H. Morris in 1931 in Northeastern Arizona, have been dated to 620–670 CE.[32]
Medicinal use

Acer negundo has been used by Native Americans for several medicinal purposes. The Cheyenne burn the wood as incense for making spiritual medicines,[25] and during Sun Dance ceremonies.[25] The Meskwaki use a decoction of the inner bark as an emetic,[33] and the Ojibwa use an infusion of the inner bark for the same purpose.[34]
As food

The sap has been used to make syrup by Native Americans, including the Dakota,[30] Omaha,[35][28] Pawnee,[28] the Ponca,[28] Winnebago,[28] Cree,[36] Sioux,[37] and the indigenous people of Montana.[25] The Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache dry scrapings of the inner bark and keep it as winter food, and they also boil the inner bark until sugar crystallizes out of it.[38] The Cheyenne mix the boiled sap with shavings from the inner sides of animal hides and eat them as candy.[25][39] The Ojibwa mix the sap with that of the sugar maple and drink it as a beverage.[40]

Barstow, M.; Crowley, D.; Rivers, M.C. (2017). "Acer negundo". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T62940A3117065. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T62940A3117065.en. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
The Plant List
"Acer negundo". Weeds of Australia. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
van Gelderen, C.J. & van Gelderen, D.M. (1999). Maples for Gardens: A Color Encyclopedia.
Keeler, H. L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 85–87.
Arno, Stephen F.; Hammerly, Ramona P. (2020) [1977]. Northwest Trees: Identifying & Understanding the Region's Native Trees (field guide ed.). Seattle: Mountaineers Books. pp. 261–262. ISBN 978-1-68051-329-5. OCLC 1141235469.
"DePauw Nature Park Field Guide to Trees" (PDF). DePauw University. p. 14. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
"Windsor Plywood". Some of the common names given in this reference are questionable, "stinking ash" and "black ash" typically refer to Ptelea trifoliata and Fraxinus nigra, respectively. This reference is retained as an example of the confusion which arises when plants such as A. negundo are discussed by other than their scientific names.
"Community trees of the Prairie provinces". Natural Resources Canada. 2007-02-22. Archived from the original on 2008-05-18.
"Acer negundo". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
Trees with Don Leopold - boxelder, archived from the original on 2021-12-12, retrieved 2021-06-19
Tree Talk: Boxelder, archived from the original on 2021-12-12, retrieved 2021-06-19
Uva, R.H., J.C. Neal, and J.M. DiTomaso. 1997. Weeds of the Northeast. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, New York.
Wilhelm, Gerould; Rericha, Laura (2017). Flora of the Chicago Region: A Floristic and Ecological Synthesis. Indiana Academy of Sciences.
DeGraaf, Richard M. (2002). Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Attracting Birds. UPNE. ISBN 978-1-58465-215-1.
"Dryocampa rubicunda (rosy maple moth)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2017-11-14.
"Manitoba Maple (Acer negundo)". 31 August 2018.
"Seasonal pasture myopathy". Michigan State University. Archived from the original on 3 January 2018. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
Anna Renier. "Seasonal pasture myopathy cause identified". University of Minnesota Extension. Archived from the original on 2017-11-27. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
Valberg, S.J.; Sponseller, B.T.; Hegeman, A.D.; Earing, J.; Bender, J.B.; Martinson, K.L.; Patterson, S.E.; Sweetman, L. (July 2013). "Seasonal pasture myopathy/atypical myopathy in North America associated with ingestion of hypoglycin A within seeds of the box elder tree". Equine Veterinary Journal. 45 (4): 419–426. doi:10.1111/j.2042-3306.2012.00684.x. ISSN 2042-3306. PMID 23167695.
"Box Elder, Ash-Leaf Maple (Acer negundo)".
Elmore, Francis H. (1944). Ethnobotany of the Navajo. Santa Fe, NM. School of American Research (p. 62)
Hart, Jeffrey A. (1981). "The Ethnobotany of the Northern Cheyenne Indians of Montana." Journal of Ethnopharmacology 4:1–55 (p. 46).
Hart, Jeff (1992). Montana Native Plants and Early Peoples. Helena. Montana Historical Society Press (p. 4)
Robbins, W.W., J.P. Harrington and B. Freire-Marreco (1916). "Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians." SI-BAE Bulletin #55 (p. 38).
Swank, George R. (1932). The Ethnobotany of the Acoma and Laguna Indians. University of New Mexico, M.A. Thesis (p. 24).
Gilmore, Melvin R. (1919). "Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region." SI-BAE Annual Report #33 (p. 101)
Gilmore, Melvin R. (1913). "A Study in the Ethnobotany of the Omaha Indians." Nebraska State Historical Society Collections 17:314–57. (p. 336).
Gilmore, Melvin R. (1913). "Some Native Nebraska Plants With Their Uses by the Dakota." Nebraska State Historical Society Collections 17:358–70 (p. 366)
Vestal, Paul A. and Richard Evans Schultes (1939). The Economic Botany of the Kiowa Indians. Cambridge MA. Botanical Museum of Harvard University (p. 40)
Clint Goss (2011). "Anasazi Flutes from the Broken Flute Cave". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
Smith, Huron H. (1928). "Ethnobotany of the Meskwaki Indians." Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee 4:175–326 (p. 200)'
Smith, Huron H. (1932). "Ethnobotany of the Ojibwe Indians." Bulletin of the Public Museum of Milwaukee 4:327–525 (p. 353)
Gilmore, Melvin R. (1913). "A Study in the Ethnobotany of the Omaha Indians." Nebraska State Historical Society Collections 17:314–57. (p. 329).
Johnston, Alex (1987). Plants and the Blackfoot. Lethbridge, Alberta. Lethbridge Historical Society (p. 44).
Blankinship, J. W. (1905). "Native Economic Plants of Montana." Bozeman. Montana Agricultural College Experimental Station, Bulletin 56 (p. 16)
Castetter, Edward F. and M. E. Opler (1936). "Ethnobiological Studies in the American Southwest III. The Ethnobiology of the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache." University of New Mexico Bulletin 4(5):1–63 (p. 44).
Hart, Jeffrey A. (1981). "The Ethnobotany of the Northern Cheyenne Indians of Montana." Journal of Ethnopharmacology 4:1–55 (p. 13).

Smith, Huron H. (1932). "Ethnobotany of the Ojibwe Indians." Bulletin of the Public Museum of Milwaukee 4:327–525 (p. 394).

Philips, Roger. Trees of North America and Europe. Random House, Inc., New York ISBN 0-394-50259-0, 1979.
Maeglin, Robert R.; Lewis F. Ohmann (1973). "Boxelder (Acer negundo): A Review and Commentary". Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 100 (6): 357–363. doi:10.2307/2484104. JSTOR 2484104.

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