Friday, January 18, 2019

Slash Pine - Pinus elliottii

The Slash Pine - Pinus elliottii is a tall, straight, deciduous tree that can reach heights of 60-100 feet on average.  Growing in an upright fashion, Slash Pine generally does not have lower limbs along the trunk but has a dense rounded crown.  It is native to the United States mainly in the South from South Eastern-South Carolina, throughout all of Florida, and along the Gulf Coast through Louisiana.  The Slash Pine is a rapid grower with a desirable form and natural resistance to southern Pine beetles, because of this it is widely planted along the coastal plain for timber production. 


Image Citation:  Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

The trunk of the Slash Pine is mainly limb free, covered with large, flat, purple-brown bark plates and topped by a dense rounded crown with dark green needles.  The needles are dark green, lustrous, stiff and 6-10 inches long in bundles of two or three.  The needles grow in clusters near the ends of otherwise bare orange-brown branches that resemble brooms.  The seeds are winged and borne in cones that range from 5-8 inches long and grow tilted back towards the trunks. 


Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org



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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Maple Leaf Oak - Quercus acerfolia

The Maple Leaf Oak - Quercus acerfolia is a very unique member of the Oak - Quercus Species, Red Oak- Fagaceae family . The leaves are Maple like in shape and are broader then they are long, which is unusual for an Oak tree. The Maple Leaf Oak also has a very tiny growth range, made up of only a few counties in Eastern and Central Arkansas. It prefers dry slopes and ridges between 500-800 m and is deciduous in habit. As a member of the Red Oak- Fagaceae family, it also is relatively small reaching maximum heights of only 50 feet tall (which is large in comparison with many other families but not the Oaks).   


The Maple Leaf Oak earned it's name because of the unique leaf shape, they are broadly elliptic to round and shaped like a Maple leaf. The blades f the leaves are 7-14 cm long and 10-15 cm broad.  The yellowish green foliage appears in April, changing to a lovely Red in the Fall. The flowers are insignificant in size and are yellow green in color.  The fruit is an acorn (like other Oaks) 4-7 mm deep, enclosing less than 1/3 of the egg shaped nut. The grayish bark is smooth in early years, but acquires dark ridging on the trunk with maturity.  


Recommended for hardiness zones 5-8 Maple Leaf Oak is considered to be easily grown, drought tolerant and have minimal problems (though like most other Oaks it is susceptible to damage by many insects).  Maple Leaf Oak is closely related to the Shumard Oak - Quercus Shumardii and was for a long time thought to be a variant of that species, in that case it is referred to as Quercus Shumardii var. acerfolia.  Originally recorded in 1926 by Palmer, it was not until recent years that the tree was given it's own full species status because of the difference in not only the leaves but the acorn morphology.   It is ideally planted as a specimen tree or focal point in any garden residential or commercially. Due to it's rarity however, it may be hard to find on the commercial market.

Image Citations (photos 1, 2 & 3):  Missouri Botanical Gardens: https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/FullImageDisplay.aspx?documentid=4307


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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Corkwood - Leiterneria floridana

The Leitneriaceae Family currently only contains one single species, the Corkwood Leiterneria floridana.  The Corkwood is a very sporadically distributed species found only in Northern Florida, Southeastern Texas, Eastern Arkansas and the far Southeastern region of Missouri.  It is most commonly found growing in swamp areas, depressions, ponds, roadside ditches or bordering tidal marshes.  It is easily recognized in it's native regions by it's very upright form combined with elliptical leaves, catkins, and tan colored lenticels found within the red-brown bark.   The Leitneriaceae florida is included on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a "Near Threatened/Lower Risk" species because of its very small number (limited by a very small native range), thought they do not show a significant decline in the population.  Leiterneria floridana was only first discovered in 1835, in the saline marshes of Florida where the Apalachicola River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Image Citation: J.S. Peterson, hosted by the USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database (https://plants.usda.gov, 24 February 2016)

The Corkwood is a small deciduous tree or shrub that only averages 15 feet in height at maturity.  Corkwoods always grow in a very upright form and generally have one single straight trunk with a narrow crown containing very few branches.  The leaves appear in alternately in simple narrow elliptical form.  The upper portions of each leaf is lustrous, leathery and medium green in color, while the lower surface is a more dull pale green.  The leaves have fine hairs on the surface when young, becoming hairless when mature.  The foliage is among the most persistent of the deciduous autumn leaves, remaining green till late November (in the more northern portions of it's range), then becoming greenish-yellow. The flowers are unisex with male and female flowers on separate plants.  The male flowers appear in upright grey-brown catkins that are 2-5 cm long,  while the female appear in reddish catkins that are 1-2 cm long.  The fruit occurs in a single seeded ellipsoid drupe that is yellow-brown in color.  The wood of the Corkwood is very fitting to it's name as it is extremely lightweight.  The wood is often compared to balsa wood and can be used in similar applications.  Corkwood is the lightest weight of all of the native Eastern North American trees.  Portions of the trunk/stems have even been used to craft fishing floats.

The Corkwood - Leiterneria floridana is not the same as the shrub also commonly known as Corkwood - Stillingia aquatica (of the Euphorbiaceae family).  The genus, Corkwood Leiterneria floridana is thought by many researchers to be related to the similarly pollenated quassia family (Simaroubaceae), though they retain very unique and identifiable features that easily separate the two.

In Italy a single compressed endocarp was collected from the Villa San Faustino site in Italy.  This single specimen shows that until the Early Pleistoncene period Leitneria venosa grew there.  Leitnera is also listed as a species found within the early Pliocene San Gimiginiano flora. Several other similar endocarps have been found on other sites in Northern Italy dating all the way up to the Cenozoic period, though rare. These fossils shows that the Leiterneria family was not always made up of this one single species but had other members with possibly a greater range then the Leiterneria floridana.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Quaking Aspen - Populus tremuloides

The Quaking Aspen - Populus tremuloides - is also called the Trembling Aspen, Golden Aspen or Mountain Aspen. With the smallest of breezes the leaves will flutter hence it's name. When fluttering the leaves even making an audible sound which would explain why the Onondagas called it the "nut-kie-e" which means noisy leaf. This tree has a very remarkable native range covering a majority of the Northern portion of the continent, ranging from New Foundland South to Delaware in the East and along the Coast of Alaska and British Columbia running South through the Rocky Mountains. Although it is not found in the South it does have one of the widest distributions of any tree in North America. It can be grown throughout hardiness zones 1-7. It is often times one of the first trees to appear after a Forest Fire. It is a fast grower often gaining 24 inches in a single season. Aspen wood Is used to make a variety of items such as wooden toys, tongue depressors, popsicle sticks, clothes pins, crates and even for paper pulp.


Image Citation (Stand): Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired), Bugwood.org

The leaves are rounded triangles with small teeth along the margins. The leaves are a glossy green above and dull below, during the Spring they change to a vivid Yellow or very rarely Red. They are arrranged alternately on the branches. Catkins are long and silvery and appear between April and May. In the late Spring, it's tiny seeds which are enclosed in cottony tufts are dispersed by the wind. The bark is a Greenish-White to Grey in color, it is often marked with black knots or horizontal scars.

Image Citation (Fall Foliage): Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The Aspen is a favorited food and shelter source for many different type of wildlife. The leaves and bark are eaten by Deer, Elk and Hare/Rabbits. The Buds are an important food source for Grouse during Winter. Beavers not only feed from the Aspen, they also use it's lumber as a building material. Many different birds and butterflies make their homes in these stands.

Image Citation (Stand surrounding field):  Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired), Bugwood.org 

The Aspen holds the the title of largest living organisms on Earth, growing in clones/stand that reproduce primarily by sending up sprouts from their roots. For the most part each clone within a stand is connected to the next one through it's root system. One clone/stand in Utah (where it is the State tree) has been determined to have over 47,000 stems, this stand is estimated to weigh over 6,000 tons! While individually each stem lives 100-150 years, Aspen stands are one of the longest living organisms. One clone in Minnesota is estimated to be 8,000 years old, making it one of the longest living organism on Earth.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Cashew - Anacardium occidentale

The Cashew Tree  Anacardium occidentale is a tropical evergreen that produces the Cashew seed and Cashew Apple.  Reaching heights of around 45 feet it is not a large tree by any means.  The trunk is generally short and irregular in form.  The dwarf variety is considered to be more profitable having earlier production maturity and higher yields at around 20 ft tall.  Native to Brazil, Portuguese colonist were recorded to export the tree and nuts as early as 1550.  Currently there is major Cashew production occurring in Vietnam, India, Nigeria and The Ivory Coast.  During the 21st century Cashew cultivation has significantly increased to meet new demands for manufacturing of Cashew Milk a plant based alternative to Dairy Milk.  In 2017, globally the production of Cashews was measured in tonnes at 3,971,046 with the leading producer being Vietnam 22%, India 19% and the Ivory Coast 18%. Benin, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Mozambique and Tanzania are all notable producers.


The leaves of the Cashew Tree are spirally arranged, elliptic to obvate in shape and leathery in texture.  The flowers are produced in panicle or corymb up to 10 inches in length.  Flowers begin as small and pale green in color, becoming red and slender with maturity.  The Cashew Nut, simply called Cashew is widely consumed throughout the world.  It can be eaten alone, used in baking, as a salad topping or processed into Cashew Cheese or Cashew butter.   The Cashew Apple is a light red to yellow fruit similar to a gourd in appearance, it is an accessory or false fruit.  The pulp of this false fruit can be processed and made into a astringent but sweet drink or distilled into liquor.  The actual fruit of the tree is the kidney shaped drupe that occurs at the base of each Cashew Apple. Within each true fruit is a single seed (or nut), this seed is surrounded by a double shell that contains a resin that is an allergenic phenolic, called anacardic acid.  Anacardic acid is chemically related to Urushiol which is the toxin found in Poison Ivy.  For this reason Cashews are not readily available or sold in shell direct to consumers.




We recently visited Saint Lucia (one stop on a cruise) and while there we toured the Drive In Volcano / Geothermal Area near Soufrière. There at the site just on the edge of the overlook was a lone Cashew tree, the first I have ever seen in person (and not in a book) so I was quite intrigued.   The tour guide explained how the Cashew was not native to the island, but was introduced over 100 years ago and is now found throughout the island. She also explained in depth about the risks of eating or handling an "unprocessed" Cashew because of what she called the "poisonous shell".  The tree itself appeared to be mature between 35-40 ft tall and has had obvious damage from what I assume to be weather combined with tourist over the years.  Perched at the edge of the overlook it is only protected by a small rail system but otherwise is right in the flow of foot traffic.  It's trunk is irregular and gnarly in appearance and part of the canopy appears to have broken out well before our visit, though it still hangs on directly above the (Smelly) Sulphur Springs bubbling below.  Another testament to the strength and determination we so often see in nature.


Photo Credits (1, 2 & 3): Amy Gilliss, Arundel Tree Service 
Location - Sulphur Springs (geothermal area) Soufrière, Saint Lucia.
It was very hard to photograph trees in this crowded tourist area as they are not the "attractions" to others ;-) 


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Friday, January 11, 2019

Chinkapin (Chinquapin) Oak - Quercus muehlenbergiimm

The Chinkapin (Chinquapin) Oak - Quercus muehlenbergii is a medium to large deciduous tree.  The name Chinkapin originated from the strong resemblance to the Allegheny Chinquapin Castanea pumila (a relative of the American Chestnut).   At full maturity the Chinkapin can reach heights of 70 feet with a broad and rounded crown.   It is a slow to moderate grower that does best in zones 3-9.  Although native to these zones, Chinkapin Oak is sporadic within its range and is seldom a dominant species in a woodland. Its common associates include White, Bur and Black Oaks, Ironwood, Red Cedar and Hickories. Chinkapin Oak prefers well drained soils, bottom-lands, limestone ridges, or along stream edges. It is also commonly found on bluffs, ridge tops, and rocky, south facing slopes. 

Image Citation (Photos 1& 2): Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, Bugwood.org 

The leaves are alternate, oval, elliptical, or oblong in shape, 4" to 6" long and 1.5" to 2" wide.  The leaf edges are sharply toothed in almost a serrated fashion.  Male and female flowers appear separately but on the same tree in Spring.  Male flowers borne on a yellowish catkin 3" to 4" long, while the female flowers are less conspicuous and reddish in color. The bark is light gray in color, with short, narrow flakes on the main trunk and limbs, and deep furrows on older trunks.  The wood of the Chinkapin Oak is heavy, hard, strong, and durable.  It is used for making barrels, fencing, fuel, and occasionally for furniture.

Image Citation (Photo 3 & 4): Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Swamp Tupelo - sylvatica var. biflora (AKA Swamp Blackgum)

The Swamp Tupelo - sylvatica var. biflora (AKA Swamp Blackgum), is most often found as a small tree but can reach heights of over 80 feet tall.  The Swamp Tupelo is filled with small branches that grow in almost perfect right angles from the trunk forming an open but unkempt crown.  Mature trees often develop swelling near the base of their trunks.  Bees are often found around Swamp Tupelo as they gather the flower pollen to produce Tupelo Honey which is highly prized.   Their sour fruits are grazed upon by a variety of small mammals and birds.  The soft wood is not commercially important but is sometimes used in local applications where a rot resistant wood is required.  Swamp Tupelo prefers to grow in shallow moving water or swamp lands, and can be found from Maryland in the North through Florida in the South and west through eastern Texas and North along the Mississippi River to Illinois.  


Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

The leaves of the Swamp Tupelo are alternate, thick and textured with short leaf stalks.  The leaf blade is 1.5 to 4 inches long and .5 to 1.5 inches wide.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous and green in color, the lower is pale and covered in hairs.  The fruit is purple-black in color, sour in flavor, 1/4-1/2 inch long with a hard seed that has distinct ridges.  The bark is silver-gray in color occasionally almost black in color with rough rectangular chunky plates and crooked furrows. 


Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

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