Every maple I've profiled thus far would likely be recognized by a layperson as a maple. But Ash-leaved Maple (Acer negundo) is likely to trick the untrained observer. Unlike the simple, lobed leaves of most common maples, the leaves of this tree -- which is also called Box-elder -- are divided into three, five, or, less commonly, seven leaflets. This feature, along with opposite arrangement of the leaves, causes some to mistake this tree for an Ash (Fraxinus sp.).
But unlike Ash trees, which bear clusters of solitary fruit, Ash-leaved Maple has clusters of paired fruit, as is typical of all maples. Ash-leaved Maple flowers in spring and ripens seed by fall.
In eastern Massachusetts, Ash-leaved Maples usually grow in disturbed, and often wet, areas. There are some growing near the Fuller Pond bridge in Plainville.