Friday, August 26, 2016

The Persimmon Tree-Diospyros virginiana

The Persimmon Tree-Diospyros virginiana is a small to medium sized deciduous tree. The female flowers are white and sweetly scented growing in almost a bell shape singly at the base of the leaves. Males flowers look similar, however they grow in cluster of 2 or 3 on separate trees. The persimmon grows many habitats, roadsides, old fields, and forest clearings.


Image Citation: Brian Lockhart, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The fruit is round orange to purple brown, stalkless, soft and juicy when ripe. When not ripe the fruit is extremely astringent, and horrible to the taste. Introduced species of persimmons with larger fruit are also commonly cultivated. The Texas Persimmon has black fruit that stains the hands and mouth when handled.


Image Citation: R.G. Steadman, Bugwood.org

Persimmon fruit is renowned for it's health benefits. The fruits are very high in vitamins B & C. They boost your immune system, improve iron absorption and have twice the dietary fiber of Apples.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

The "White Oak" - Quercus alba

 The "White Oak" - Quercus alba - is one of the most prominent and well recognized trees in our area. It is a long lived tree, with some recorded still living at 450 years. Maryland's famous Wye Oak (in Wye Mills, Maryland) was estimated to be over 450 years old when it was knocked down by a storm in 2002. The White Oak is the state tree of Maryland, Connecticut and Illinois, It's native range is from Quebec in the North, Minnesota in the West and Texas-Florida in the South. It is not a very tall tree, with an average height of 80-100 feet at maturity.

Image Citation: Martin MacKenzie, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The bark is a light grey color with very rigid and noticeable fissures. The leaves are green in color ranging from 5-8 inches in length, changing to a red-brown in the Autumn season. White Oaks will sometimes hold their dead brown leaves over winter, these leaves will fall out in the Spring with the new growth. The wood is pale brown in color, solid, heavy and durable. The acorns appear annually, they are cup shaped and are a shiny brown in color.

Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

The White Oak is a food source for many forest animals. Deer and Rabbits will nibble on the twigs and sometimes dead leaves. The acorns are a favorite of Turkeys, Wood Ducks, Pheasants, Jays, Nuthatches and Woodpeckers. The White Oak is also the only known food source for Bucculatrix luteella and Bucculatrix ochrisuffusa caterpillars.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Cockspur Hawthorn - Crataegus crus-galli

The Cockspur Hawthorn - Crataegus crus-galli is distinguished by the combination of unlobed, short stalked, hairless, lustrous, and dark green leaves. It is a small deciduous tree that reaches heights of 30 feet on average. It grows in an erect, typically upright form with a broad rounded crown. It is native to the entire East Coast with the exception of Southern Florida, West through Texas in the South and Michigan in the North.  It is most commonly found growing in thickets, woodlands, bottom lands, pastures and stream beds.  It is among the most common and widespread of all the Eastern Hawthorn, found in all but three eastern states.  

Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
The bark of the Cockspur Hawthorn is full of stout, gray-black, straight or curved thorns.  The leaves are alternate, simple, narrowly obovate, thick, leathery, with a rounded base and blades 2-8 cm long.  The flowers are circular, with white petals, 10 - 20 stamens, occurring in Mid-Spring.  The fruit is a greenish pome, that becomes red with maturity.  The fruit is rounded or oblong 8-15 mm each, maturing in Autumn.  

Image Citation: T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

The Cockspur Hawthorn is a very popular garden tree and is used in not only residential applications but also commercially and along roadsides.  It is recommended for hardiness zones 4-9.  Cockspur Hawthorn prefers moist, well drained, slightly acid soils, and full sunlight. It is adaptable to poor soils and various soil pHs, compacted soils, drought, heat and even limited winter salt sprays.  This tree provides excellent cover and nesting areas for many small varieties of small birds.  The fruits are eaten by birds, including waxwings, sparrows, grouse, and small rodents.  The twigs and leaves are eaten by white tail and mule deer.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

The Loquat - Eriobotrya japonica

The Loquat - Eriobotrya japonica is most easily recognized by the combination of large coarsely toothed, heavily veined, dark green leaves and large flowering panicles with yellow or orange fruit. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that reaches heights of 9-20 feet high on average. The crown is dense, rounded and somewhat vase shaped. The Eriobotrya is a small genus of only 30 species of evergreen shrubs or trees that are native to mostly Asia.

Image Citation: Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The bark is brownish gray, smooth and somewhat hairy. The leaves are alternate, simply toothed, stiff, leathery, obovate or elliptical, with coarsely toothed margins and parallel veins. The upper leaf surface is lustrous, dark green, hairless, with a paler lower surface. The flowers are 10-15 mm in diameter with 5 petals in an oval or circular form. The flowers are a creamy white color with a sweet fragrance, borne in conspicuous branches and hairy terminal panicles. The flowers appear is late Autumn to early Winter. The fruit is a yellow, orange or whitish pome, that is pear shaped or oblong with 1-2 large seeds. The fruit matures in Spring to early Summer.

Image Citation: Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The Loquat was originally introduced from East Asia and is now found on disturbed sites from South Florida to South Louisiana, and cultivated into the southern portion of North Carolina. The Loquat is considered to be somewhat invasive in some portions of Florida.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Common Apple - Malus

Common Apple - Malus pumila - Trees are small deciduous trees in the Rosaceae family with a single erect trunk and low hanging branches that often reach the ground. Sometimes also called Paradise Apple, this is the Apple of commerce. Numerous cultivars have been selected from this genus for taste, size, shape and color. Fruits of wild plants are often of lesser quality then those that are tended to in orchards. Other varieties of Apples and Crab Apples have smaller fruit and thorny twigs.

Image Citation: Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Bugwood.org

The fragrant flowers are white with a hint of pink or sometimes all pink. Flower have 5 petals and appear with the new leaves in mid - late Spring. The leaves are alternate, simply shaped, oval or elliptic with a bluntly pointed tip. The upper leaf surface is a deep green hairy when young, becoming hairless with age. The fruit is round or slightly ellipsoid pome, green when young becoming red with maturity. The fruit matures in Summer to Early Fall annually.

Image Citation: H.J. Larsen, Bugwood.org

Growing commonly in forest clearings, near streams in the Eastern United States (but not very far to the North or Gulf Coast region). Ornamental varieties are grown throughout the majority of the United States. It is believed that the Common Apple was originally introduced from Asia or Europe but has naturalized in many areas within it's hardiness zones.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Avocado - Persea americana

The Avocado - Persea americana - tree is a very desirable ornamental, native only to the subtropical areas of Mexico and Central America. The growing conditions must be It's fruit is often included on the seemingly growing list of "super foods", it is very high in vitamin K & B and also contains C, D & Potassium. High Avocado intake was shown in one study to lower blood cholesterol levels.




With an average height of just 65 feet, it is a medium sized grower. When planted in pots it is necessary to re-pot quite often as they quickly outgrow small areas. The leaves are an elongated oval shape, deep green in color with a slight sheen on the top. The fruits are either pear or egg shaped with green skin that can range from mid green to almost a black-green and pale green inside. Avocado skin, bark and pits are harmful to many animals and have been recorded to cause severe reactions to dogs, cats, cattle and rabbits. The meat of the Avocado is smooth in texture and is often compared to butter in flavor. It is very often used in Vegetarian cuisine as a meat substitute because of it's high fat content. It is also commonly used in California Rolls, Guacamole, Sandwiches, Salads, Soups and Sauces. Commercially in the United States, Haas Avocados are the most known/marketed type even thought there are dozen of other cultivars grown worldwide.

Image Citations (Photos 1-3): Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

Avocado fruits are climacteric, meaning they mature on the tree but don't ripen until taken off. They will only ripen if mature, so if picked early the ripening process will not occur. The Banana is another fruit in the climacteric catagory. Most Avocado crops produce the best crops bi-annually with poor yeilds in the off or in between years. Once off of the tree the fruit will ripen within a two week period, if left on the tree to long the fruit will eventually fall off on it's own. Avocados can be grown from seed, although it will take the new plantings 4-6 years to mature and bear fruit. Indoors you can also grow Avocados from the pits in water, holding them near the surface with toothpicks, once the stem reaches an inch or two you can transfer it to soil.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Paw Paw - Asimina triloba

The Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) is a small deciduous fruit bearing tree that is native to North America.  They grow wild in much of the eastern and midwestern portions of the country, but not in the extreme North, West or South.   

Image Citation (Photos 1 & 2): Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org 

The leaves are green in the growing season and an elongated oval shape ranging in size from 10-12 inches long.  In the fall the leaves change to a rusty yellow in color.  When crushed the leaves have a strong unique odor, often compared to that of a bell pepper.  The leaves contain toxic annonaceous acetogenins, making them impalatable to most insects. The one exception is the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly.  

The flowers have 3 prominent triangular shaped green, brown or purple outer petals.  The flowers are insect pollinated, but fruit production is often limited by the small number of pollinators that are actually attracted to flowers very faint scent.  
Image Citation (Photo 3): Wendy VanDyk Evans, Bugwood.org

The fruit is a green-brown in color and a curved cylindrical shape - the shape of the fruit is very similar to a fat lima bean.  The trees produce an almost tropical fruit with vanilla or banana/mango flavors. When ripe, the fruit’s soft flesh is very creamy in texture. The large seeds are easy to remove, making the pawpaw an excellent pick for fresh eating.  The short shelf life makes it an uncommon find in most market areas.   Fresh fruits of the Paw Paw are generally eaten raw, either chilled or at room temperature. However, they can be kept only 2–3 days at room temperature, or about a week if refrigerated.  

Many animals and insects make use of the Paw Paw tree and it's fruit.  The flowers attract blowflies, carrion beetles, fruit flies, carrion flies and other bettle varieties.  The fruits of the Paw Paw are enjoyed by a variety of mammals, including raccoons, foxes, opossums, squirrels, and black bears. Larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly, feed exclusively on young leaves of Paw Paw.  Chemicals in the Paw Paw leaves offer protection from predation throughout the butterfly's life remaining in their systems and making them unpalatable to predators.  Whitetail deer do not feed on the Paw Paw.

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