The Box-elder is a native of North America, where it has a wide range of distribution, extending from California to Florida and northwards to Canada. It was introduced into Europe in 1688, and today is cultivated throughout the entire Continent, tolerating even the climate of northern Europe. In some areas it is well naturalized and appears wild. It lives to an age of only a hundred years or so and reaches a height of 10 to 20 metres. The twigs are green, covered with a bluish bloom when young. The trunk is often crooked, and the bark is divided into ridges by shallow fissures. Unlike all other European maples, it has compound odd-pinnate leaves. The tiny greenish flowers are clustered in pendent racemes and appear as the leaves unfold. The fruit, which matures in autumn, appears also in pendent clusters.
In its native environment, the Box-elder grows mostly in river valleys, and near lakes, on moist soils. However, it appears to be very adaptable, and also grows fairly well in dry situations. It is of little importance in European forestry, because of its brief life span and poor quality wood, but is often planted as an ornamental. Its rapid growth in youth makes it a good tree for providing quick screens in parks and gardens. Also very ornamental are the yellow and silver variegated leaved forms which are more frequently seen in gardens.
Leaves: 13—25 cm long, odd-pinnate, composed of 3—5 (sometimes 7 or 9) coarsely toothed leaflets, the terminal leallet generally three-lobed. Flowers : Unisexual in drooping long stalked clusters. Fruit: A double samara, with wings forming an acute angle and ovoid seeds.