Fast-growing boxelder was widely planted throughout the East and Midwest for street shade and windbreaks until the early 20th century. However, because it lacked the beauty, resistance to storm damage, and long life of its more glamorous cousin, the sugar maple, the practice eventually was discouraged. In the open reaches of the Great Plains through which flows the Missouri River, though, the boxelder was welcome. Able to endure climate extremes and drought, it grew to greater stature, providing needed shade and shelter from the ever-present winds. Its seeds, like tiny helicopters, swirled with the breezes to find homes for sprouting, and grew where nothing did before. A true maple, boxelder even today is tapped for its sweet sap, which is made into syrup and sugar. This is especially true in its western range, where the preferred sugar maple fails to grow. Boxelder's comparatively soft, light wood never attained the woodworking status of the hard and often distinctively grained sugar maple. Yet, where it grows to any great size, it finds its way with other nondescript maples into slack barrels, boxes and crates, woodenware, and inexpensive furniture.
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