Thursday, March 23, 2017

Melaleuca, Melaleuca quinquenervia

Melaleuca, Melaleuca quinquenervia, is most easily recognized by the combination of whitish peeling bark, white bottle brush shaped inflorescence and narrow 5 veined leaves. It is an evergreen tree that reaches heights of between 50-90 feet tall.  Generally growing in an erect form with a single trunk and narrow crown that is often open and irregularly branched.  It is well established in hammocks, pine lands, disturbed woodlands and along roadsides mostly in Southern Florida and sparsely in Southeastern Louisiana. This variety originated in Australia and Melanesia.  


Image Citation (In Bloom): Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

Melaleuca quinquenervia is considered to be one of Florida's top three invasive species.  It covers thousands of hectares in tropical and subtropical regions.  Eradication efforts have been largely unsuccessful due to it's aggressive growth and rapid establishment.  It has even reestablished itself after forest fires that have wiped out all other growth.


Image Citation (Melaleuca Infestation):Randy Westbrooks, Invasive Plant Control, Inc., Bugwood.org

The leaves of the Melaleuca are alternate, simply shaped, slightly thickened and stiff.  When crushed the leaves have a resinous odor when crushed, narrowly elliptic, or oblanceolate with a evenly tapered base and tip.  The flower is bisexual with 5 tiny sepals and petals, white in color and circular shaped 2-3 mm broad, filaments are white.  They are produced closely together, sometimes interuppted, internodal clusters 5-15 cm long, giving the appearance of a bottle brush. The fruit which occurs almost year round is a roundish or square capsule that is stalkless and crowded encircling the stem between leaf nodes, seeds are brown.

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The Biltmore Ash - Fraxinus Biltmoreana

The Biltmore Ash - Fraxinus Biltmoreana, is a small tree that is very common from elevations between 700 and 2500 m, in the areas surrounding Biltmore (the area in which it is named for), Panther Creek, Station Cove, Tamassee Knob, Brevard Fault Zone of North Carolina, Savage Gulf and Fall Creek Falls in the Cumberland Plateau, Wadakoe Mountain in South Carolina.  Most areas in which the Biltmore Ash are found have exceptionally productive second growth hardwood forests, but are generally drier then mixed mesophytic forests containing Hickories instead of Buckeye or Basswood.  



Very closely related to White Ash in which it's growth range overlaps, although it's leaves and twigs are densely coated with fine hairs.  The seedlings are smooth until four or five years old, after which the young growth is pubescent.  The leaflets are tapering and narrow, but become thick and leathery and occasionally velvet like in the hottest an driest regions of it's growth zone.  The fruit body is plump and essentially round in shape, with wings extending no more than 1/3 of the way down the seed body.  The lumber is used locally for ax handles and wagons.



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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Camphortree - Cinnamomum camphora

Camphortree - Cinnamomum camphora, is a small to mid sized evergreen that can reach heights of up to 60 feet tall.  It grows in an erect form generally with a single short trunk, sometimes producing several secondary trunks from the base.  The tree generally has a dense crown that grows in an oval form, with lustrous often low spreading branches that become more or less ascending with time.  Native to Asia, it is now naturalized on disturbed sites, vacant lots, roadsides, upland woodlands, and fence lines from Southeastern North Carolina, South through Georgia and Florida and West through Eastern Texas.  There are over 200 species of Cinnamomum recorded, most of which are native to India, China and Japan.  


Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

The leaves of the Camphortree are alternate, simple in shape, and somewhat leathery at maturity.  The leaves and bark give off a camphor like aroma when crushed.  The bark is dark cinnamon brown to dark steel in color and becomes deeply furrowed with age.  The flowers are bisexual and tiny in size 1-2  mm in diameter, with 6 green-white or creamy tepals occurring in the Spring annually.  The fruit is a lustrous black drupe 8-9 mm in diameter and born in a cup like receptacle, maturing in Autumn to Winter annually.


Image Citation: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Blackjack Oak - Quercus marilandica

The Blackjack Oak, Quercus marilandica - is a small to mid sized, scruffy tree that is found growing in dry areas and generally doe not reach heights of more then 15-50 feet tall. The tree develops an irregular shaped open crown full of crooked branches. Blackjack Oak is one of only a few Red Oaks that manufacture and store the substance called tyloses.  Tylose seals it's vessels and makes the wood watertight.  The Blackjack Oak remains small in size and is often considered to have knotty wood which prevents it from having any value as a commercially produced lumber.  



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

The leaves of the Blackjack Oak are tough and leathery, triangular in shape, 4-8 inches long and wide with three shallow and broad tipped lobes near the end of each rounded base.  The bark is dark gray to almost black in color with some silver flaking on the surface, very rough on the surface with deep irregular fissures.  There are one or two acorns on short stalks with reddish to brown colored caps in the shape of a top.  The nut is elliptical 1/2 - 3/4 inches in diamter with a stout point.  



Image Citation: Vern Wilkins, Indiana University, Bugwood.org

Blackjack Oak is native to the United States and can be found growing from Iowa east through New Jersey and New York, South through Florida and west to Texas and north to Nebraska.  It is almost always found growing on dry, sandy or clay soil. 

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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Sassafras - Sassafras albidum

The Sassafras - Sassafras albidum is a member of the Laurel family. Having only three varieties, two of which are native to China and Taiwan, and the other is native to the Eastern portion of the United States. Spreading by suckers growing from the roots, in it's natural habitat it is commonly found growing along the woods edge and fields or as the under story of a forest.

Image Citation: (Photo 1) USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, SRS, Bugwood.org & (Photo 2) The Dow Gardens Archive, Dow Gardens, Bugwood.org 

The fruit from the Sassafras is blue in color when mature starting at clear and red when young. Growing from red stems the fruit grow in an almost ornamental pattern. The fruit/berries are a favorite of small birds such as Finches in the Spring and Summer. Like the Amercian Holly, the Sassafras is dioecious, meaning the pistallate and staminate flowers mostly grow on different trees.

Image Citation: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Forestry Archive, Bugwood.org

The Sassafras tree has a unique scent that is recognizable even before the tree is in view, the oil that produces the scent is in the roots, the leaves and even the bark of the tree. Teas can be made by steeping the roots of the tree-Native American are recorded to have used this tea to treat many ailments. The oil was also used as the flavoring for traditional Root Beer prior to it's use being banned by the FDA in 1960 because of the Safrole found in the oil was thought to be a possible carcinogen. This banned was reversed partially in 1994 but new restrictions were put into place to be sure that the Safrole was removed prior to human consumption . File Powder, is a spicy herb made from dried and ground leaves. It was traditionally used by Native Americans in the South, and was adopted into Creole cuisine in Louisiana as a very commonly used ingredient.

Image Citations (Left & Right Photos): Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org

The foliage of the Sassafras is very unique having as many as three varying type of leaves. The leaves can vary from single lobes, double lobed or mitten shaped to triple lobed. They are green in color during the growing season and in the fall put on a very beautiful show. The leaves will vary in color in the fall from Yellow, Orange, Scarlet and Crimson.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Texas Red Oak - Quercus texana

Texas Red Oak - Quercus texana, (also called the Nutall Oak) is a medium to large tree that grows to reach heights of 115 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter.  The Texas Red Oak has a swollen base and spreading, horizontal, slightly drooping branches.  Texas Red Oak is commercially important in the floodplain areas of the Mississippi River, where it is harvested as Red Oak.  Wildlife rely on the acorns of this species as a reliable source of food.  Due to it's strength, ability to grow well in poor soil and nice appearance it is becoming a popular shade tree.  It is native to floodplains, bottom land woods areas, and wet clay soils from 0-200 m.  It is restricted in range mainly around the Mississippi River drainage basin from Alabama west through Eastern Texas, north to Southeastern Missouri and Southern Illinois.



Image Citation: Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University, Bugwood.org

The bark of young trees is light brown in color, thin and tight with slightly raised squiggly shaped plates that cup up at the edges.  When sunlight reflects on this trees bark it reflects narrow silver streaks.  The branches are noticeably long, straight and slender with the lowest ones slightly drooping down towards the ground.  The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate, elliptic or obovate, with a wide angled or flattened base, with 6-11 lobes, all lobes are sharp pointed and bristle tipped.  The fruit is in the form of an acorn with a cup that is 10-16 mm deep, the outer surface is hairless or finely hairy. The cup of the acorn encloses 1/3-1/2 of the nut, the nut itself is broadly egg shaped or ellipsoid.  


Image Citation: Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University, Bugwood.org


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Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Golden Dewdrops - Duranta erecta

The Golden Dewdrops - Duranta erecta, are most easily identified by their brilliant sky blue colored flowers and bright yellow fruit.  They originated in the West Indies but have been naturalized from South Florida to East/Central Texas.  In the United States they are found primarily on disturbed sites, pine lands, and hammocks from 0-100 m.  An evergreen shrub, occasional vine or rarely a small tree they reach heights of only 20 feet.


Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

The unique sky blue flowers are about 1cm in diameter, with 5 petals each, borne in an elongated raceme ranging in size from 5-15 cm long.  The flowers occur year round.  The fruit is a round yellow drupe that matures year round an averages about 1.5 cm in diameter.   The leaves are opposite, simple, elliptic or egg shaped, tapered to a short point at the tip.  The bark is simple and gray when young, becoming fissured and rough with age.

The Golden Dewdrops is a member of the Vervain (Verbenaceae) family that includes roughly 35 genera and 1000 unique species found in only topical and sub tropical regions.  This family includes many colorful ornamentals and recent research shows this family is closely related to the Lamiaceae (mints & teak are in this family).

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