Friday, April 13, 2018

Hints of Spring while the Boxelder Waits

Boxelder on left. Did I mention that the Territorial Prison is just across the river? (far right, click image to view)

It must be spring—the construction crews are back, working on the new street nearby (featured here). A few weeks ago they took away the amazing Gomaco curb-and-gutter machine, and brought in truckloads of dirt. Landscaping and sound barriers are on the agenda. The street and bridge are due to open this summer—at last we will have a safe convenient bicycle/pedestrian path across the railroad tracks :-)
But as far as I can tell, the boxelder I’m following hasn’t changed at all since last month, though there’s now snow at the base. About three weeks ago we finally had a blizzard. It dumped almost a foot of wet snow, followed by several smaller storms—enough that patches remain in the boxelder’s shady nook. After such a dry winter, it was a blessing.
While the boxelder waits, other plants are starting their growing seasons. Grasses are greening up, and the Easter daisies in my wildflower beds are beginning to open.
Easter daisies, Townsendia hookeri; coin is just under 1 in across (2.5 cm).
Our local spring parsley is blooming too, a small inconspicuous plant generally overlooked. For some reason it was named Cymopterus montanus even though it’s a prairie plant, so the powers that be have declared the official common name to be mountain spring parsley. Every year I resolve to photograph it but have failed until now, even though it grows just outside my fence, and being prostrate, is not disturbed by “spring breezes” (when I shot this photo, the wind was blowing 35 mph with gusts to 48).
Spring parsley has clusters of tiny flowers, surrounded by papery bracts.

If you were hoping for a boxelder fix, don’t despair. I’ve included photos from TreeLib. Don’t know TreeLib? It’s great. Blake and Nathan Wilson (father and son) provide descriptions and high-quality photos of 380+ tree species, free for non-commercial use. Blake is a dendrologist and photographer, Nathan a web designer. They’ve put together an elegant easy-to-use site.
“Trees are our silent partners, sensing us as we move about, providing shelter, offering us beauty, and nurturing and protecting the earth.” (TreeLib home page)
The Wilsons are Canadian, so Manitoba maple is the first common name listed for the tree we in the US call boxelder. But no problem—searching is based on scientific name, in this case, Acer negundosame genus as maples (because it is a maple! … more below). It’s also possible to browse TreeLib by common name.
Manitoba maple in British Columbia. Hard to imagine my scruffy boxelder looking like this!
Boxelder leaves are compound, with 3-7 leaflets. You can arrange them to show that boxelder is indeed a maple (one of Mike’s ranger tricks).
Convinced? (works better in real life)
Pendulous clusters of tiny male flowers.
Samaras—paired winged fruit, also known as keys.
Buds just like the ones I check each month, hoping for action.
TreeLib says boxelder “is one of the most widespread and adaptable of all North American trees” (emphasis added). I can believe it!

For more tree-following news, check out the April gathering kindly hosted by The Squirrelbasket. All are welcome join us! … more information here.


  1. At least you get some spring flowers although the tree isn't doing much.

    I really miss spring flowers. I loved them when I lived in the southern part of Sweden but sadly we don't have spring flowers in the north.

    1. No spring flowers! -- that is sad. When I read your posts and comments about northern Sweden I realize we have little to complain about here

  2. Any signs of spring are welcome at this point! We are the objects of a ping-pong game between winter and spring here in the Midwest. Mother Nature is laughing as we get batted from 60F, warm, sunny, windless days to hail, snow, 60 mph winds, and 30sF...and back again for weeks in a row. Spring is always changeable, but this year the "colds" are colder than normal. Your poor little Boxelder! We have some in the woods here, and I have to do a double-take with the seedlings sometimes because they very much resemble poison ivy...which is also common in the woods. Enjoy the increasing advancement of springtime!

    1. That's is crazy weather, Beth! as we've discussed (FB). Interesting ... I can definitely see the resemblance to poison ivy

  3. Your tree is just waiting for warmer weather to leap into action!

  4. Another fascinating post!
    We have an Acer negundo in the park near me and until recently I always had trouble identifying it. I must remember that trick arranging the leaves to remind me it's a maple.
    I love the huge truck.
    And so many of your pretty little plants look like alpines, being so low-growing and seeming to thrive in dry and windy habitats. I can see why they called these daisies, just like those back home in Europe.
    All the best :)

    1. Pat, you make a good point about the "alpine" appearance of these plants. In fact, in some parts of the high desert here, vegetation looks a lot like alpine veg -- we even have a name for it "cushion plant communities".

  5. The spring parsley is fascinating. I was disappointed to find that having clicked on the photo I couldn't enlarge it further to see the flowers better.
    There's no way I would have imagined your box elder could grow into such a large and leafy tree. A shame really cos this will seal its doom.

    1. Lucy, sorry to hear about the click malfunction. Works on my browser (Chrome on laptop) but I do know that doesn't necessarily mean anything!!

  6. Nice post about your tree. I'm in late spring mode and forget that's not yet a thing for northern climes. I'll be interested in seeing your boxelder--out of its stick period--once your temps warm. As well, thanks for the link to Treelib--great website!

    1. ha ha, Tina, yes--very much a stick! I've seen it in leaf and it's very different. However, given our drought, it may not be so lush this year.