Box Elder

Latin Name: Acer negundo

Young leaves by urtica Origin: Native to North America

Family: Aceraceae.

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Found in a variety of soil types, growing best in lowland sites along rivers, streams, ponds or seasonally flooded flat.

Edibility Rating: 3 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 1 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Deciduous tree to 20 m high. Bark smooth when young, becoming flaky later, brownish-grey and pinkish-brown underneath. Leaves with side leaflets 4–12 cm long, 2–4.5 cm wide and larger terminal leaflet up to 15 cm long and to 8 cm wide; leaf stalk 5–12 cm long. Seed about 1.5 cm long.
Flowers: Numerous, yellow-green, lacking petals. Appear before leaves in spring. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant) and are pollinated by Bees. The plant not is self-fertile.

Winged Fruits (samaras) by .Bambo.

Winged Fruits (samaras) by .Bambo.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by pinnate leaves (see glossary) with 3–7 leaflets that have toothed or lobed margins (see photo); male and female flowers on different plants, male flowers clustered and hanging, female flowers borne on a single long drooping branched stalk (raceme); V-shaped fruit (samaras) 3–4 cm long and winged below the seeds.

Dispersal: Spread by seed.

Edible Uses

Inner bark; Leaves; Sap; Seed. The sap contains a reasonable quantity of sugar and can be used as a refreshing drink or be concentrated into a syrup. The syrup is used as a sweetener on many foods. The sugar content is inferior to A. saccharum according to one report whilst another says that it is highly valued as a producer of sweet sap. The sugar from the sap of this tree is said to be whiter than that from other maples. To obtain the sap, bore a hole on the sunny side of the trunk into the sapwood about 1 metre above the ground at anytime from about June 1st until the leaves appear. The flow is best on a warm day. The best sap production comes from cold-winter areas with continental climates. Inner bark – raw or cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or be added to cereal flours when making bread, cakes etc. The inner bark can also be boiled until the sugar crystallizes out of it. Self-sown seedlings, gathered in early spring, are eaten fresh or dried for later use. Seeds – cooked. The wings are removed and the seeds boiled then eaten hot. The seed is up to 12mm long and is produced in small clusters.


Medicinal Uses

Emetic. A tea made from the inner bark is used as an emetic.

Other Uses

Musical; Preservative; Shelterbelt; Wood. The leaves are packed around apples, rootcrops etc to help preserve them. A fairly wind-tolerant tree, it can be used in mixed plantings as a part of shelterbelt plantings. Wood – soft, weak, light, close grained. It weighs 27lb per cubic foot. Of little commercial value, it is used for boxes, cheap furniture, pulp, fuel etc. Large trunk burls or knots have been used to make drums.


Male flowers by .Bambo.

Male flowers by .Bambo.

Notes: Widely planted as an ornamental. Fast growing tree that invades bushland, particularly along watercourses. Now a major riparian weed of a few streams in temperate zones and has the potential to spread to many similar areas

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