The Box Elder tree, Acer negundo, can
be found along the upper creek banks, on the borderof both the riparian
and the upland community at Hidden Hollow. This is because its root
system prefers to be near stream beds. It is one of the most common
trees in Utah, and can also be found in many other areas scattered across
the United States. It is a medium-sized tree, with an average size
range of 12 - 22 meters.
The Box Elder tree belongs to the maple family,
as the name Acer in its name indicates. Like most angiosperms,
it is deciduous: that is, it loses its leaves in the fall.
Its leaves are pinnately compound, with three to five leaflets. Like
all maples, the leaflet venation is palmate. The leaflets can be
anywhere from 5 - 12 centimeters in length, and the edges have large, irregular
teeth. The flowers and seeds of the Box Elder tree are yellowish-green
and have long stalks. All maple seeds have seeds with paired wings,
also known as samaras. The fruit of the Box Elder tree hangs in clusters,
and the wings do not spread more than 45 degrees from the seed.
A common companion to the Box Elder tree is the
Box Elder bug. It is a small, black insect with red-orange stripes
along its back. It does not pollinate or eat other insects, and although
the Box Elder bug is not necessarily useful, it is not known to be harmful,
either. Another common companion to the Box Elder tree is the fall
cankerworm caterpillar, commonly known as the inchworm. It feeds
on the leaves of various trees, including the Box Elder and the other trees
at Hidden Hollow. Although leaves can be seriously depleted by the
inchworm, the trees generally refoliate once the caterpillar season is
through. The inchworm, in turn, serves as the primary source of nutrition
for various migratory birds. It is important not to over-use insecticides
and threaten the inchworm population, as this also threatens the bird populations.
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