Sunday, September 30, 2012

All Hail the Box Elder!

Several years ago, a neighbor stopped in to chat and during the course of the conversation implored us to chop down all the box elder trees sprouting in the pasture.  We nodded noncommittally, then changed the subject.  We had no intention of disturbing these hardy pioneers, considering the area’s history.

Much to my family’s chagrin, my wonderful first horse Pochakantas had a taste for all trees and effectively mowed down every poor sap(ling) that had the temerity to try and grow in her pasture. 

Pokey passed in late 1987 and my remaining horse, Shêtân,  had no gastronomical interest in trees. 

That next spring,  we were delighted to see the familiar apple-green nubs of the box elder raise their leaves among the brome grass.  In a few short years we were the proud parents of about ten young, carefully pruned  baby trees, which was, unfortunately,  soon reduced to a mere four after we discovered Shêtân  had a habit of using the youngsters as scratching posts.  

After Shay died in 1999, the number of box elders  increased and they became an important part of the former pasture.  My mother used to say the key was trimming. Keep them carefully shaped via pruning and they become a respectable part of the landscaping. 

Constantly derailed as “trash trees,” the box elder (Acer negundo), is actually a member of the maple family and is one of the most common trees in America.  Perhaps it’s true that familiarity breeds contempt as this species is much-maligned and its significance all too often overlooked. Hardy souls they thrive practically anywhere, absorbing full sun, enduring drought and providing soil erosion control.  Fast growers, they soon become big enough to provide the necessary shade for the so-called better trees.

In other words, beautiful, colorful hardwoods do not spring from the earth but rather are the culmination, or “climax,” that result from lesser species which prepared the way.

Box elders form the building blocks for a future forest but their importance does not end there.  They are integral to our wildlife, especially birds, as they attract insects and provide habitat, including nesting spots for owls and wrens. Even in death, box elders are valuable as their burrowing insects provide nourishment for woodpeckers. Squirrels and deer also look to the box elder for sustenance.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and here at Bon Bon Pond, we believe box elders are a lovely and life-sustaining gift from God.

One of the lovely box elders that grace the pasture.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely tree! I love trees, too. When I'm in the woods, I feel the trees come alive and whisper their secrets to me. Many have lived longer than me so they have lots to tell.


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