Box Elder or Poison Ivy?

Last year, after doing THIS blog post about poison ivy, I came across this little fella while weeding the garden.










The leaves of three, the right shape … I was pretty convinced this was poison ivy. It prompted me to get gloves and a bag, and dig a large circle to remove the offender. However, my husband noticed an importance difference.

See how the clusters of three attach to the stem across from each other? This is called an “opposite” pattern. Poison ivy clusters attach in an “alternate” pattern. Turns out this little guy was nothing to be afraid of after all. It is now what I believe to be a very young Box Elder.

After a bunch more popped up in my garden this year, I decided to post about this.

Box Elder (Acer negundo) is a species of maple tree, and today’s species of the week! It is also known as a “Manitoba maple” and an “ash-leaf maple.”

When young, it is easy to mistake for poison ivy. I’m not the only one. However, as it grows older, the differences are easier to see. For one, it is a tree. Poison ivy is not.

Leaves are arranged oppositely, as mentioned before, and are pinnately compound (groups of 3-5 leaflets). Box elders can grow to 60 feet. They develop maple keys which grow in clusters.

So, if you see something like this, don’t panic. Check for opposite or alternating leaves. If you’ve got opposite leaves, and you’re in the woods and out of toilet paper, you’re good to go. Alternating? I’d try something else.

As always, if I’m completely wrong, please let me know.



Posted on June 3, 2014, in Species of the week, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. It is a manitoba maple seedling.


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