The box elder, or acer negundo, is, despite its common name actually a maple. It is a small fast growing tree that can reach heights of 35-80 feet with a trunk diameter of around 20 inches. This deciduous tree is native to most of the eastern United States and may still be found growing wild far into the Midwest states. The tree, since it is so fast growing is often planted as a shade tree, and, like all maples can be a source of sugary sap which can be processed into maple sugar and maple syrup. The trunk and spreading canopy of the box elder give the tree and attractive appearance and make it a favorite for planting when reforesting or landscaping an area with native tree species.
The box elder is the only North American maple that has compound leaves, which, due to their similarity to the leaves of the elder have given it its common name. The wood of the tree is not much used in construction, but is used at times in the manufacture of furniture and small wooden decorations. Not only is the box elder the only maple with compound leaves, it is also one of the few maples that can is both male and female and can reproduce without the near presence of another tree. The seeds of the tree are encased in a samara that is reddish brown when mature and can be seen whirling to the ground like miniature helicopters with the first winds of autumn