Content Detail

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.

  • Family (English) Soapberry (formerly Maple)
  • Family (botanic) Sapindaceae (formerly Aceraceae)
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium tree (25-40 feet), Large tree (more than 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 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Irregular, Round
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Aggressive, Excessive sucker growth, Highly susceptible to ice damage, Messy fruit/plant parts, Weak wood and branch structure
  • Wildlife Browsers, Insect pollinators, Seed-eating birds, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 0. It is native to low, wet areas and has spread into disturbed sites. It is 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 are  light green in summer with very little fall color change.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Male and female flowers are generally on separate trees and not ornamentally important.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruit is found on female trees only. It has pairs of winged seeds (samaras) which hang in clusters.

Plant care:

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

List of pests and diseases: 

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


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift