Friday, September 30, 2016

Chickasaw Plum - Prunus angustifolia

Chickasaw Plum - Prunus angustifolia, is a thicket-forming small tree that has an early blooming habit and folding leaves. It is deciduous and reaches heights of only 20 feet tall.  It grows in an erect fashion with multiple trunks and a thicket forming habit.  It is native to the United States from New Jersey to Pennsylvannia in the North to Florida, Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico in the South and West.    Commonly found on roadsides, in old fields, sandy clearings, rural homesteads, thickets, in open woods, dunes pastures from 0-600 m.

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

The bark is a dark reddish brown to gray, splitting but not exfoliating.  The leaves are alternate, simple, lanceolate, narrowly elliptic or oblong, upward folding from the mid rib, with a wedge shaped base.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous, bright green, hairless with a dull under surface. The flowers are 7-10 mm in diameter, 5 petals, 10-20 stamens each, with white filaments.  The fruit is ovoid or ellipsoid red or yellow drupe, 1.5-2.5 cm in diameter.  The fruit is considered to be pleasant tasting and can be used for making wine, jam and jellies.

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

The thickets are used by cattle for shading and protection from the summers heat.  When thickets form a majority of a cattles grazing area they tend to gain weight faster.  The thorned thickets are a popular plantings for songbirds and game bird nesting and roosting.   The fruit is eaten by numerous birds and small animals.  Lesser prairie-chickens use the cover of the thickets for cooling during the day.  Fire can damage the thickets but does not generally kill the plantings.



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Thursday, September 29, 2016

The English Walnut-Juglans regia

The English Walnut-Juglans regia,  is most easily recognized by the combination of large rounded or ellipsoid fruit (nuts) and pinnately compound leaves with 5-9 leaflets each.  The leaves are similar to those of the Black Walnut - Juglans nigra and Butternut - Juglans cinerea, the three can be easily confused for one another by the untrained eye.  The English Walnut is a fast growing deciduous tree that reaches heights of 80-85 feet tall.  It grows in a single trunk erect/upright fashion with a slender trunk and crown made up of spreading and ascending branches.  

Image Citation: Robert Vid├ęki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org

The bark of the English Walnut is smooth and brownish in color, becoming an irregularly furrowed silver gray with age.  The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound and made up of 5-9 leaflets that are opposite one another.  The leaf base is broadly wedge shaped, the tips pointed and margins running the entire length of each leaf.  The male flowers occur in Spring in the form of spikes that are 5-15 cm long each with 6-40 stamens each.  The fruit is a large rounded or ellipsoid nut or drupe that averages in size from 4-6 cm in diameter with a green husk that matures in Summer or early Fall.  

Image Citation: Piero Amorati, ICCroce - Casalecchio di Reno, Bugwood.org

Originally introduced from Asia and cultivated in cooler portions of the East, not believed to be naturalized in the United States at this time. Walnuts are harvested and sold in two forms shelled or in their shells (whole).  The number one producer of Walnuts is China, Iran and the United States follow behind (though not closely as they each only produce about a quarter of the Walnuts that China does annually).  Walnuts must be handled and stored correctly so as to not mold, mold on a Walnut produces aflatoxin, a potent carcinogen. A mold infested walnut batch should be immediately discarded and can not be salvaged.  Walnut hulls contain phenolics, this chemical can stain hands and cause skin irritation or potential allergic reactions on sensitive skin.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The "Cryptomeria" - Cryptomeria japonica

The "Cryptomeria" - Cryptomeria japonica is a monoecious ornamental evergreen tree that can reach heights upwards of 65-70 feet.  Growing in a slender, upright pyramidal fashion, it has unique short, sharp in-curved needles that are unique to this species and only the rare Taiwania (a similar species).  The needlike leaves are 3-12 mm long and  spirally arranged. The bark is reddish brown to dark gray, fibrous and often peels off in strips. The cones are brown, slightly rounded with an apical point and are borne at the tips of the twigs in groups of 1-6.  The branching habit of this species is considered to be irregular and does not occur in a uniform fashion.


Image Citation (Mature Cryptomeria): Richard Webb, Bugwood.org

The Cryptomeria is native to only China and Japan, but has been successfully grown as an ornamental in the United States. In it's native range specimens are known to live more then 1700 years and reach diameters of almost 10 feet.  It is the national tree of Japan where it is often planted at temples and shrines.  In the US, the best specimens are found in regions with warm and moist summers.  The Cryptomeria is sometimes also called Sugi or Japanese Cedar.  This species prefers moist, rich, fertile, acidic, but well-drained soils in full sun and can only tolerate some light shade.  This tree is recommended for US hardiness zones 5-9 and is considered to be a low maintenance large specimen or screen tree.  


Image Citation (Young Cryptomeria): Bonsak Hammeraas - The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, Bugwood.org

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Monday, September 26, 2016

The "Sweetbay Magnolia" - Magnolia virginiana

The "Sweetbay Magnolia" - Magnolia virginiana - is native to the Eastern/Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions of the United States, with it's highest "natural" numbers occuring in the South Eastern States of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. It grows naturally most commonly in poorly drained or highly acidic soils that are often subject to flooding. This tree has a vase shaped growth habit and generally reaches 10-20 feet tal at maturity. It is considered a medium to fast grower, gaining an average of 12-24 inches per year when young.

Image Citation: Richard Webb, www.Bugwood.org 

Though it is not as showy as it's counterparts (the more commonly planted ornamental Magnolia's) it offers great interest from May - Late June when it is in bloom. After the initial bloom, some flowers will often continue to sporadically appear late into the summer season, disappearing before the first frost. The blooms are a creamy white in color, highly fragrant and 2-3 inches in diameter. The scent of the flowers is often compared to a light lemon or citrus scent. When the flowers disappear the "fruit" appears in the form of red-orange cones often growing in clusters. This fruit is eaten by a wide variety of animals including Squirrels, Mice, Turkey, Quail and many Songbirds.

Image Citation: Charles T. Bryson, USDA Agricultural Research Service, www.Bugwood.org 

The leaves are simple oval shape with a slight point at each end (lanceolate). They are a glossy dark green in color with a lighter silvery underside. In some areas of the United States, the leaves are retained throughout the year, because of this it is considered to be semi-evergreen.

Image Citation: Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.), www.Bugwood.org 

The Sweetbay Magnolia is hardy in USDA zones 5-9. Some cultavars found at local nurseries may include the Southern (australis), Henry Hicks, and Moonglow.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

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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Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Casuarina / She-Oaks - Casuarina

The Casuarina / She-Oaks - Casuarina is a small genus only including 17 species, only 3 are naturalized in the very Southern half of Florida.  Native to Australia, Indonesia and Asia only, the Casuarina are considered to be one of Florida's most troublesome and aggressive invasive species.  All three of the varieties found in Florida are referred to commonly as Australian Pine which is a direct reference to the similarity in branching.  The leaves are tiny and scalelike and encircle the branchlets at regular intervals.  The number of leaves per encircling whorl provide the primary means for distinguishing one species from another.   The Casuarina or Beefwood family is made up of about 90 species, only the Casaurina are found in the United States. Most are evergreen with pine like needles and cone shaped fruit. The flowers are generally unisexual, male and female can appear on either the same tree or different tree, depending on the species.
Image Citation: Tony Pernas, USDI National Park Service, Bugwood.org

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