Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis

The Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis, is also called Sharinga Tree, Rubberwood or Para Rubber Tree.  It was only originally found growing in the Amazon Rainforest but was planted in more widespread tropical and sub-tropical areas once the demand for it's naturally produced rubber increased.  This tree is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family and has major economic value because of it's milky latex that naturally occurs within the tree.  Recorded uses of this and similar tree rubber/latex products date back to the Olmec people of Mesoamerica some 3600 years ago.  By the late 1800's rubber plantations were established in the British colonies, Java, and Malaya.  Today most rubber plantations outside of the native region occur in tropical portions of South/East Asia and West Africa. Cultivating in South America has not been satisfactory because of leaf blight this leaf blight is a major concern for plantations worldwide as it has not been cured or corrected and is thought to pose a threat to all varieties/clones growing today.

Image Citation: David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

This latex that occurs in the Rubber Tree is the primary source of natural rubber, it occurs in vessels within the bark just outside of the phloem. The vessels spirals up and around the tree in a right handed helix pattern forming an angle of about 30 degrees and occurring at heights of up to 45 feet.  In the wild the tree has been found to reach heights upwards of 100 feet, but this is not very common.  Trees grow at a much slower rate once they are tapped for latex and are generally cut down after about thirty years as they usually stop producing at this point so they no longer have economical value.  When harvesting cuts are made in the vessels but only deep enough to tap into them without harming the trees growth.  In order to grow these trees require tropical or sub-tropical climates, with no chance of frost.  One simple frost event can completely wipe out a plantation and be detrimental to production as the rubber becomes brittle and breaks.  Latex production is not very reliable the amount and quality is variable from tree to tree. When a tree is tapped (the process is called rubber tapping) the latex is collected in small buckets and looks almost similar to the process used to collect syrup from Maple trees.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Gray Birch - Betula populifolia- Marshall

The Gray Birch - Betula populifolia- Marshall, is most eaily distinguished by it's triangular leaf with flattened base, elongated tip and doubly toothed margins.  It is a deciduous tree that reached heights of about 40 feet.  Generally growing in a multi trunk, curving or leaning fashion it makes for a beautiful focal point in both residential and commercial landscape settings.  

Image Citation: T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org
The bark of the Gray Birch is red-brown when young, becoming a gray or chalky white when mature.  The bark is smooth and tight, not usually exfoliating like some other Birch (Betula) varieties.  The leaves are alternate, simply shaped, thin and pendulous.  The triangular leaves are often compared in size and shape to those of the Quaking Aspen.  Leaf color ranges from a lustrous green in the Spring to a yellow or yellow-orange in the Fall.  The flower appears in late Spring in the form of a cylindrical catkin.  The fruit is a winged samara with wings broader then the body, they are borne in a narrow, bluntly pointed, erect or drooping structure.  
Image Citations (Bark & Leaves): T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

The Gray Birch is native to the North East and Mid Eastern portions of the United States and extreme South Eastern portions of Canada.  It can be found from North Carolina and Virginia in the South, Illinois and Indiana in the West, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario in the North.  It prefers moist, well drained, rocky or sandy forests, abandoned sites (fields, pastures) and can often be found on natural reforestation sites that have been burned, or cleared.  Hybrids of the Gray Birch and Mountain Paper Birch are often called Blue Birch .  

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Monday, September 18, 2017

The White Ash - Fraxinus americana

The White Ash - Fraxinus americana, is best identified by it's opposite compound leaves with 5-9 leaflets that are whitish on the undersides. It is a large deciduous tree that reaches heights of 40 - 90 feet tall, it grows in a erect fashion with a single trunk. It is native to upland woods, floodplains, dry hills, hammocks, and cove forests. It's range is widespread along the East coast, from Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec in the North, West through Eastern Nebraska and Eastern Texas.
Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

The bark is scaly, grayish, narrowly ridged and furrowed with furrows forming diamond patterns towards the base. The leaves are opposite, pinnately compound, 5-9 ovate leaflets with bluntly toothed margins. The upper leaf surfaces are dark green while the lowers are whitish, hairy when immature. Fall leaf color ranges from red to maroon to yellow. The fruit is a narrowly elliptic or linear samara that ranges from 2.5-3.2 cm long that matures in late summer to early fall each year.
Image Citation: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org

There are three other variations of White Ash that were originally grouped together as one species. They are now identified as individual species the Texas Ash - Fraxinus albicans Buckley, Biltmore Ash - Fraxinus biltmoreana Beadle, and Fraxinus smallii. The ranges of these smaller species are much smaller and overlap the native range of the White Ash but not one another.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

The Engelmann Spruce - Picea engelmannii

The Engelmann Spruce - Picea engelmannii - is a medium/large Evergreen tree.  Growing in a tall and conical form with an average height of 80-130 feet tall, with few recorded to reach heights of over 200 ft.   

Image Citation (Photos 1&2): Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired), Bugwood.org

The bark is Grey, thin, scaly, flaking off in circular sections revealing an Orange color in sections below.  Male flowers are a dark purple and Female are a reddish/purple, the flowers develop into shiny light brown cones that average 2-2.5 inches long.  The cones form at the ends of the twigs during the Spring growth season.  

The Engelmann Spruce is native through Southwest Canada, through the Cascade, Monashee, and Selkirk Mountains, continuing South through the Rocky Mountains and portions of the Pacific Northwest.  It is often confused with the Blue Spruce, White Spruce, Black Spruce, Norway Spruce and Sitka Spruce-many of which take over in growth ranges where the Engelmann leaves off.  The seeds are black with slender brown wings.

Engelmann Spruce wood is harvested for both paper-making and general construction. Wood from slow-grown trees such as this variety growing at high altitudes have a specialized use in the making of musical instruments such as acoustic guitars, harps, violins, and pianos.



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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Wild Olive or Devilwood Tree - Osmanthus americanus

The Wild Olive, Osmanthus americanus is also called the Devilwood tree.  Most commonly recognized by it's dark green leathery opposite leaves small white flowers, and olive like fruit.  The Wild Olive is a small evergreen tree or shrub that reaches heights upwards of 50 feet.  Generally the tree form grows with one single trunk while the shrub form may have multiple trunks and a more bushy shape.  The named Devilwood is thought to be given because of it's very hard wood which is "devilish" to woodworkers.  

Image Citation: Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

The bark fo the Wild Olive is Grey or Red-Grey when young becoming rough, scaly and Red-Brown with maturity.  The leaves are opposite, glossy, leathery, oblong and occasionally notched.  The upper surface of the leaves are lustrous and hairless dark green in color, while the underside is a paler green.  The flowers are unisexual, with the male and female flowers appearing on different trees.  Flowers are small creamy white with four petals and a fused tube.  Male flowers contain 2 stamens and are produced in short axillary panicles.  The fruit is oval or ellipsoid in shape, similar to that of a common olive, containing one seed.  The dark purple to black fleshy fruit matures in Summer to Fall.

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

The Wild Olive is native to coastal dunes, sand hill and upland woods area up to 150 meters above sea level.  It can be found from South Eastern Virginia along the East Coast through Florida and along the Gulf Coast into small portions of Louisiana and Texas.  
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Sweet Birch or Cherry Birch (Betula lenta)

The Sweet Birch or Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) is most easily recognized by the combination of fine and sharply toothed leaf margins, winter green scent, scales on the conelike fruit and dark brown almost black bark.  It is a deciduous tree that can reach heights up to 65 feet, but usually does not exceed 3.5 feet in diameter.  The tree grows in an upright form with a generally single eract straight trunk and a rounded crown.  The Sweet or Cherry Birch is native to the United States.  It prefers rich, moist soil, cool forest areas, mountain slopes, Appalachian hardwood forests.  It can be found naturally occuring from New York and Maine in the North to Northern Georgia, Alabama and Central Mississippi in the South.  It is not often confused with the closely related Yellow Birch as the bark is significantly different in not only color but texture as well (Yellow Birch has a yellowish exfolliating bark).

Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org


The bark of the Sweet/Cherry Birch is a dark gray brown to brown black in color, it is smooth when young becoming furrowed with age.  The twigs exude a winter green aroma and taste when scraped or injured.  The leaves are alternate, simple, paperlike in texture, obvate and and heart shaped at the base.  The leaf margins are finely and sharply toothed.  The upper surface is a dark green while the lower surface is a more pale green.  The flowers occur in make and female catkins, the male are reddish brown and 7-10 cm long, while the female are pale green and 1.5-2.5 m long both occur in the late Spring.  The fruit is a winged samara born in a scaly erect egg shaped structure that matures in late Summer or early Fall.

               
                                                                            

Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org




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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Bur Oak - Quercus marocarpa

The Bur Oak - Quercus marocarpa, is best identified by the combination of fiddle shaped leaves, winged twigs and large acorns with fringed cups.  It is a deciduous tree that reaches heights of 80-160 feet tall on average.  It grows in an upright, erect form with a single trunk and spreading crown. It is native to poorly drained woodlands, bottom lands, sandy plains, prairies, dry uplands and around clay or limestone between 0-1000 m.  It can be found as far North as Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick on South through Tennessee, Oklahoma, Virginia and even portions of East/Central Texas and other portions of the Gulf Coast.  The Bur Oak has the largest acorn of any Oak species North of Mexico and is also the most Northern ranging and cold tolerant of all Native American Oaks.  It's range extends well into Canada but as the range continues North the size of the tree decreases, becomes shrubbier, less upright and the acorn size also decreases.  


Image Citation:Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, Bugwood.org

The Bark is a dark gray in color, flattened with scaly ridges and deep vertical furrows.  The leaves are alternate, simple, elliptic to obvate often fiddle shaped.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous, dark green to greenish gray.  The lower leaf surface is pale green with a thin covering of tiny branched hairs.  The fruit is in the form of an ellipsoid acorn with a cup ranging from 1.5-5 cm deep that ancloses half of the light brown nut on a stout 6-20 mm long stalk.

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

The Bur Oak is similar to the White Oak and often confused to the untrained eye.  It's recommended hardiness range is 3-8. Bur Oak is a shade tree, boasting a spreading canopy capable of blocking sunlight.  It is often planted as a shade tree and prefers full sun (at least 6 hours direct sunlight per day).  The acorns of the Bur Oak are the preferred food for wood ducks, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, rabbits, mice, squirrels and other rodents.  

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