Monday, December 5, 2016

Arborvitae - Thuja

December is a time of year where the often overlooked evergreens begin to get some much deserved attention. Being a cool December day it seems like the perfect time to tell you more about some of the different type of Arborvitae (Thuja) that you can consider for your landscape. They provide wonderful year round color, screening, privacy, wind breaks, focal points and even places to hang our Christmas ornaments! In general they are slow growers so if using them for privacy screening or hedgerow remember it will take time for them to fill in and reach the height you desire. Arborvitae can be planted in full sun or partial shade and grow in most soil types, though they seem to thrive in slightly acidic soil.

The Arborvitae is often referred to as a "Tree of Life", most varieties have a majestic appearance when full grown. Native Americans are recorded to have used all parts of the trees for not only construction reasons but also many health benefits. Baskets, Totem poles, Canoes and vessels were all crafted from the timber. The oils have preservative qualities that help prevent/protect wood from rotting or fading in the sunlight. The essential oils of the Arborvitae are concentrated and marketed to be used for various reasons. The oils can also be applied directly to your skin and used as a natural insect repellent.

Below is a list of some varieties you may find here in North America:

The Arborvitae Nigra "Thuja occidentalis Nigra" is a hardy, relatively low maintenance tree and takes pruning well. It makes an excellent vertical accent, wind or privacy screen, natural fence or hedge.

Image Citation: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org

The Arborvitae Golden Globe "Thuja occidentalis 'Golden Globe'" is a Globe-shaped arborvitae for use as a hedge, screen, or specimen plant. It has a more unique and less common Golden yellow foliage.

The Arborvitae Green Giant "Thuja standishii x plicata 'Green Giant" is a large, vigorous, fast growing evergreen. It's natural pyramidal to conical form boasts dense, rich green foliage that darkens or bronzes only a little in the winter. This is an exceptional landscape tree for use as a screen, hedge, windbreak, or even specimen planting. It is tolerant of a wide variety of soils, but prefers moist, well drained soil, sun to partial shade. It is wind resistant once established and withstands heavy ice or snow loads. Under good growing conditions, it can grow up to 3' a year to a height of 50'-60' with a 12'-20' spread.

Image Citation: Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, Bugwood.org

The American Arborvitae, "American Thuja occidentalis" is a narrow, pyramid shape makes it a natural choice for windbreaks. Tall and elegant, it requires almost no care when used as a hedge or screen. Pairs of these hardy trees make great accents for doors and garden gates while single (well maintained) specimens soften house corners. Single specimens can grow to 40'-60' with a spread of up to 15' in the wild, but 20'-30' with a 12' spread in urban settings is more typical.

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

Although most varieties of Arborvitae grow in any climate, certain varieties grow better in each hardiness zone. When you are selecting/purchasing your Arborvitae, research the climate zones where it will flourish compared to the zone you live in. This will make caring for your Arborvitae a much easier process as the tree will require less maintenance.

Arborvitae are beautiful when grown next to each other, they make a great hedge or natural fence, if they are properly spaced when planted. Planting them too close together will prevent them from growing as they should because they will all be competing for the same minerals and nutrients in the soil, while planting to far apart may not give you the privacy you desire. Check your varieties growth habits before planting to see how far apart they should be placed.

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Friday, December 2, 2016

The Chalk Maple - Acer leucoderme

The Chalk Maple - Acer leucoderme, is most easily distinguished by it's small size and relatively small squarish-lobed leaves that are green beneath.  It is a deciduous small tree or large shrub that reaches heights of only 40 feet tall on average.   It grows in an erect form generally with a single upright trunk, occasionally a multiple trunk but always with an open spreading crown.  It is native to well drained upland woods, stream terraces, calcereous woodlands from 10-300 m, generally restricted to the Piedmont and sparingly in the coastal plains of North Carolina and Virginia on South through Florida, west to eastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma.  It is very similar to the Southern Sugar Maple and overlaps in range.



Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

The bark is smooth gray in color, the twigs are red-brown in color, lustrous, smooth and hairless.  The leaves are opposite, simple, thin and as broad as they are long.  The upper leaf surface is a lustrous yellow-green, the lower is a more even green.  The leaves turn a beautiful Salmon, Orange, Yellow or Purple-Red color in the fall.  The Yellow-Green flower is tiny in size with 5 sepals occurring in Mid-Spring.  The fruit occurs in paired samaras 2.5-3 cm long, widely angled from the point of attachment.  



Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The "Eastern Hemlock" - Tsuga Canadensis

The "Eastern Hemlock" - Tsuga Canadensis is a very unique evergreen/conifer, this is because it's terminal leader often droops instead of giving the tree a typical pointed top like most in the Pine family. It's natural range begins to the North in Nova Scotia and continues South through Wisconsin and Minnesota, throughout the Alleghany Mountains and South through Georgia and Alabama. It is native to every state along the East Coast with the exception of only Florida in the far South. It is very common in the Mountains of Pennsylvania and Ohio, it is the only Hemlock variety that is native to Ohio. It's hardiness zone is 4-7. In the Southern range it is found only where there is moist air, rocky ridges, valleys, ravines lakeshores and hillsides. In the Northern range it is found in a wider variety of locations including on low rolling hills and even glacial ridges. It most commonly grows in mixed stand settings along with White Pine, Red Oak, Sugar Maple, American Beech, White Ash, and Yellow Birch.

Image Citation: Paul Bolstad, University of Minnesota, Bugwood.org

In Eastern North America the Eastern & Carolina Hemlocks are greatly threatened by the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. Trees infested with Hemlock Woolly Adelgid can be easily identified by visable egg sacs, which resemble small tufts of cotton clinging to the underside of hemlock branches. Once infested trees generally become a grayish-green instead of there rich healthy green color. This pest feeds on the phloem sap of tender hemlock shoots, and may also inject a toxin while feeding. The resulting desiccation causes the tree to lose needles and not produce new growth. In the northern portion of the Hemlock's range, death typically occurs four to ten years after the initial infestation. Trees that survive the direct effects of the infection are usually weakened and may die from secondary causes. This pest has been identified as active in 11 states within the Hemlocks growth range causing major concern for the future of these majestic trees.

Image Citation: USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station , USDA Forest Service, SRS, Bugwood.org

The Eastern Hemlock does not begin to produce cones until about the age of 15. The brown cones are relatively small only 1/2-1 inch in length and usually not more then a 1/2 inch wide. Once the cones begin production they come in high volume and for many many years, some specimen have been found producing cones even at 450+ years old. Seed viability is generally low, even though there are a large number of cones produced. The Hemlocks seed is easily damaged by drying. They regenerate best on exposed decomposing layers under 70-80% crown cover, in rotten logs or stumps or mounds where the temperature is warmest among the forest floor.

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

The Eastern Hemlock grows in an upright primarily conical fashion with long branches that often droop at the ends. At full maturity they can average 100 feet tall but have been found growing as tall as 170+ feet. The bark is brown, scaly and fissured . The bark was once used commonly as a source of tannin or the leather industry. The needles are evergreen and flat, usually 5-25 mm long and set on each branch with peg like projection.

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

The wood is not of a high enough quality furniture making. It is used for light framing material, boxes, crates and even pulping. It is not considered an important timber tree in today's market. Commercial stands have been greatly reduced by prior harvesting and lack of replanting.

The Eastern Hemlock can be used as a specimen tree, planted in groups for screening, or even trained/sheared over time into formal evergreen hedgerows. It is tolerant of full shade and has a natural open growth habit.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Meet The "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, November 28, 2016

Meet the "Southern Magnolia" - Magnolia grandiflora

The "Southern Magnolia" - Magnolia grandiflora - is a medium sized evergreen tree.  It is also called the Bull Bay, Big Laurel, Evergreen Magnolia or Large Flower Magnolia.  The native range of the Southern Magnolia goes from North Carolina south down the Atlantic Coast and through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Central Texas.  Averaging 60-80 feet tall in ideal locations, they usually reach maturity at 80-120 years.  It typically grows in an oval pyramidal shape.

Image Citations (Photo 1 & 2): T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Featuring leathery leaves 5–10" in length, with a lustrous dark green top and soft, rusty underside.  The large White fragrant flowers appear April-June and are almost perfect in form.  The fleshy cone shaped fruit mature in late fall.  The fruit are 5-8 inches long and attract a wide range of wildlife including Squirrels, Rabbits and Birds. 

Image Citation (Photo 3): Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.), Bugwood.org

Recommended for zones 6-10 this variety can be grown as far North as Maine and is found planted over most of the country with the exception of the North-Central Region.   Air-layering, stem cuttings and grafting are all sucessful means of propagation.  It can be found at most nurseries in it's growth range.  It is best planted as a landscape tree versus a street tree as the leaf, flower and fruit debris are often considered messy.  

The name Magnolia honors French Botanist Pierre Magnol, who was so impressed with the tree he transplanted one near his home in Europe over 300 years ago.  One of these trees grows on the White House grounds, it was transplanted by President Andrew Jackson from his home in Nashville, Tennessee.  This tree was transplanted to honor his late wife Rachel's memory.  

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Java Plum - Syzygium cumini

The Java Plum -  Syzygium cumini, Is a fast growing evergreen tree that reaches heights of 30-80 feet tall depending on the location/conditions planted.  It is considered a tropical tree and is a member of the flowering plant family Myrtaceae.  It grows in an erect single trunk they could be straight or crooked in form with a rounded crown.  The tree was introduced to Florida in 1911 by the USDA, it originated from Asia, specifically India and Burma.  It has become established in Maritime hammocks, lake margins, flatwoods and rockland throughout Central and Southern Florida.  It is similar to the Malabar Plum Syzygium jambos but can be distinguished by the different sized leaves and fruit.  It is treated by the state of Florida as an invasive species. It can be found growing from Sea Level to 6000 feet above in the tropics. It grows best in areas with very high rain or humidity levels.
Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

The leaves of the Java Plum are opposite, simple, thick, leathery, elliptic or oblong in shape with a rounded base and tip.  The upper surface of the leaves are lustrous and dark green in color with visible yellow lateral veins, the lower surface is a yellow-green in color and duller in sheen. Leaf blades are 7-18 cm long and 3-10 cm broad with a light yellow petiole of 5-25 mm long.  The leaves are said to smell similar to turpentine when crushed. The flowers are individually small in size only reaching 7 mm long, with 4 petals, fused in a rounded cap that opens and exposes a mass of white or pink threadlike stamens.  The flowers are produced in clusters 5-6cm long on the wood of the previous year.  Flowers on the Java Plum occur year round.  The fruit is fleshy with a single seed, it occurs as a oblong or ellipsoid berry that is 1-2.5 cm long and 2 cm in diameter.  When young the fruit is green becoming pink, red and then a purple-black.  The fruit matures year round the same as the flowers.  The pulp ranges from purple to white and is very juicy, with a sweet flavor in high quality varieties to astringent flavor in poorer varieties.


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

The products of the Java Plum are used for various purposes.  The fruit is used to make wine and vinegar, they are also a high source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.  The fruit seeds are used in alternate healing processes, Unani and Chinese Medicine (digestive ailments) and Ayurveda (diabetes control).

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Santa Maria - Calophyllum antillanum

Santa Maria - Calophyllum antillanum, is most easily recognized by the combination of oval leaves  with numerous closely set parallel veins and deeply pitted, diamond-patterned bark.  It is an evergreen tree, salt tolerant tree that originated in the West Indies but has become naturalized in South Florida.  This plant is considered to be invasive to mangrove forests and inland hammocks.  It is similar to the Alexandrian Laurel which is also naturalized in Florida but is distinguished by it's bisexual flowers with 200-300 stamens and fruit that is 2.5 - 4 cm long.  It is a member of the Clusianceae / Garcinia Family.

The Santa Maria grows in an erect fashion, generally with a single trunk occasionally with multiple low branches.  The bark is dark gray or nearly black, deeply ridged or furrowed.  The leaves are simple, opposite, thick, elliptic or oval in shape with a rounded (occasionally notched) tip.  The 5-8 cm long leaf surface is lustrous and dark green in color with numerous visible veins that are located very close to one another.  The fruit occurs as a rounded drupe that is 2-2.5 cm long and yellow or brown at maturity.  The flower is uni-sexual averaging 2.5 cm in diameter, fragrant with four white lobes and 40-50 stamens each.  

The wood of the Santa Maria is used in tropics (not in the United States), the heartwood varies from yellow-pink to red-brown in color, the sapwood is lighter in color.  The grain interlocks and has gravity ranges from .51 to .57.  The wood is considered to be easy to work with and is considered above average when rated for shaping and sanding but not for turning and boring.  Santa Maria wood can be used for general construction, flooring, furniture, cabinet making, poles, cross ties and handles.   


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