Boxelder (Acer negundo) – Often a companion tree to the cottonwood in riparian areas, the boxelder is a member of the maple family, which you can tell by its double-winged fruits called samaras. Its soft white wood is used to make boxes, while its syrup has been tapped or “boxed” for sugar and syrup. It has been cultivated as a shade tree for hundreds of years because of its rapid growth. Although it is neither as tall nor as graceful as its neighbor cottonwood, boxelder leaves turn a bright yellow in autumn. In the spring, their showy flowers look like big, dangly earrings.