Boxelder trees (Acer negundo, Aceraceae) tend to be common in floodplains, including one in southeast Michigan where these photos were taken. These maples have a preference for ample water and sunlight, so they grow readily in these disturbed areas. They’re tolerant of a wide range of conditions, however, and easily colonize any disturbed area. Because of that they’re commonly found on developed property and along ditches, fields, and roads.
Boxelders are often considered undesirable for a number of reasons. They’re weak, easily damaged by weather, relatively unattractive, and short-lived. The wood is of poor quality and of little use as lumber. The trees also attract large numbers of boxelder bugs, which can be a nuisance to people. I’ve heard people refer to boxelders as “trash” trees since they tend to grow like weeds anywhere they can.
Despite the prevalence of boxelders and their negative reputation, some organisms find them valuable. A number of butterfly and moth larvae (order Lepidoptera) are known to feed on the leaves, including the caterpillar shown here.