Acer negundo L.

Sapindaceae – Soapberry Family

Acer negundo

English: Boxelder, Ash-leaved Maple
Spanish (Central Mexico): Acezintle

Natural history

Boxelder is one of most wide-ranging trees in North America with a range extending from south central Canada across the central and eastern United States, sporadically across the southwest, and in isolated mountain locations in southern Mexico and Guatemala. It has also been introduced to parts of Europe, Asia, and Australia. It is particularly well adapted to the margins of waterways and disturbed locations and here in southwest Colorado we can find it forming thickets in riparian habitats our lower elevations.

Boxelder is somewhat unique among the North American maples for having compound leaves, although the trait is not unique for maples as a group as many species of maple in eastern Asia also express this trait. Reproductively Boxelder is dioecious, having separate male and female plants. 

Human history and use

Boxelder has limited human use.  The wood is of generally poor quality for use in construction although it has been used for the production of wooden boxes (the source of the common English name) and some rough construction.  Some peoples in North America were known to us Boxelder for bowls, drums, pipestems, and prayer sticks. The sap of Boxelder has been used by peoples across the species’ range as a sweetener.  It can be dried and mixed with other products to produce a candy or to make a syrup, much like the related Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is used for making maple syrup.  The syrup is generally lighter than that from Sugar Maple and has more of a butterscotch taste.


CABI. 2021. Acer negundo. In: Invasive Species Compendium. Wallingford, UK: CAB International.

Castetter, E. 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 4:1-63.

Gilmore, M. R. 1919. Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, SI-BAE Annual Report #33.

Moerman DE. 1998. Native American ethnobotany. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

Rosario, L. C. 1988. Acer negundo. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).  Available: [2022, March 9].