Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Yellowwood Tree - Cladrastis kentukea

The Yellowwood Tree - Cladrastis kentukea, is a medium sized deciduous member of the legume family.  With it's smooth elephant grey bark, pendulous fragrant flowers, and red/brown stems it offers beauty to any landscape year round.  It is native to the Eastern United States, most notably two very small areas, one runs along the Kentucky and Tennessee border, and the other between Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.  It is commonly planted in landscapes from New England south to Washington DC & Virginia.   Yellowwood is hardy from zones 4a to 8b and can be purchased from most large nurseries in the Eastern US.  

The leaves are composed of widely spaced leaflets that are alternate not opposite one another. There are usually 9-11 leaflets per leaf.  The leaves are a yellow green in Spring, bright green by Summer and then Yellow in the Fall.  The wood of this tree contains a Yellow dye which stains the heartwood, hence the name Yellowwood. 

The flowers of the Yellowwood are very similar to Wisteria, they grow in a pendulous form and feature white fragrant flowers.  The flowers are small and grow on open panicles ranging from 10-15 inches long.   They are considered to be highly fragrant and appear in May.  The flowers give way to long brown seed pods as the Spring Summer season changes.

Image Citations (Photos 1-3): Missouri Botanical Gardens - 
 (This is a great site for plant/tree information and id help)

When mature this tree can reach heights of 30-50 feet and a spread of 40-55  feet wide.  It is considered to be virtually pest free and quite hardy in it's native range.  This tree is easily transplanted in B&B or bareroot up to 2 inches in caliper.
The Society of Municipal Arborist named this tree the "2015 Urban Tree Of The Year", this selection was made based on it's adaptability and strong ornamental traits.   

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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 occurring 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 tall 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, 

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, 

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.), 

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

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Monday, May 25, 2020

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, 

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 impalitable 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,

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 beetle 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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Friday, May 22, 2020

American Holly - Ilex opaca

The American Holly - Ilex opaca, is an evergreen holly that is most easily recognized by it's uniquely shaped lustrous dark green leaves with spiny margins.  American holly is a slow growing, long lived tree that can reach heights of around 60 feet tall, however they average only 45 feet in most regions.  They grow in an mostly erect upright fashion, with a single main trunk and a pyramidal shaped crown when grown in open areas.  Usually planted as a specimen tree, they require little pruning to keep their shape and naturally have a symmetrical growth habit.  When found in forest and woodland settings the American Holly has more of cylindrical shape with less branches and less symmetry.  

Image Citation: Richard Webb,

The American Holly has smooth light gray bark that occasionally has wart like growths.  The leaves are Alternate and simply shaped, either oblong or elliptic.  The leaf apex is spine tipped, sharp enough to pierce your skin, the margins usually are rolled downward.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous and dark green in color, the lower is duller but close to the same color.  The "fruit" comes in the form of small lustrous 7-12 mm rounded red berries.  These berries appear in the fall and grow in clusters at the base of the leaves.  Only female Holly Trees bear fruit/berries, which occur in Autumn annually.  Don't be confused however by the word fruit, the leaves and berries from Holly Trees are NOT EDIBLE to humans, and are known to cause severe stomach issues if ingested.  The small white flowers of the Holly occur with male and female on separate trees.

Image Citation: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,

American Holly is native to moist woodlands, rich slopes, margins of floodplain forests from 0-1500 m.  The American Holly can be found from New York and Massachusetts in the North all along the East coast South through Florida and West through South Easter Missouri and Eastern Texas.  They are recommended for hardiness zones 5-9 and is considered both evergreen and ornamental.  Holly trees offer beauty all year long as well as wildlife cover and food for birds.  Over 1000 cultivars have been developed from the Holly.  American Holly is the state tree of Delaware.  

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Sparkleberry - Vaccinium arboreum

The Sparkleberry - Vaccinium arboreum, is best recognized by the combination of reddish bark, bell shaped flowers and lustrous green leaves with a tiny point on the tip. It is an evergreen in most locations or late deciduous in colder climates. It grows in an upright fashion small bush or tree form. It is native to North America, dry sandy woodlands, thickets and clearings.  It is widespread on the East Coast of North America, found from Ontario in the North and Florida in the South, West through Kansas and Eastern Texas.  

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

The bark is reddish brown to molted gray in color that often peels in plates or sheets.  The leaves are alternate simply shaped and firm in texture, the upper surfaces are lustrous and dark green in color.   The flowers are white in color, usually around 4 mm long and cup shaped.  The flowers occur in the Spring Season.  The fruit is a black berry that is dry in texture and 5-9 mm in diameter occurring in late Summer to early Autumn.  

Image Citation:  David Stephens,

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Dotted Hawthorn - Crataegus punctata

The Dotted Hawthorn (Crataegus punctata) is a small deciduous tree that grows to heights of around 30 feet at maturity.  It generally grows with a single erect trunk with branched thorns and a broad flat topped crown.  It is native to the North Eastern United States from NB to Minnesota in the North through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina in the South.  The Dotted Hawthorn generally forms large colonies and is one of the more common Hawthorns found in the Northeast.  

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

The Dotted Hawthorn is best identifed by it's dull green leaves and indented veins, pale ashy bark and spotted pommes.   The pale ashy bark is grey and has plate like scales,  The branches are a pale grey and are covered in grey thorns that are between 2-8cm long. The leaves are alternate simple and obvate or elliptic in shape, thin and firm with 7-10 pairs of lateral veins that narrow at the base.  The upper surface is a dull green and hairy when young.  The flower is 13-20 mm in diameter with white circular petals surrounding around 20 stamens.  The flowers appear in early Summer season.  The fruit is a red, burgundy or yellow pome that matures in early Fall.

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

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

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Kentucky Coffeetree - Gymnocladus dioicus

The Kentucky Coffeetree -(Gymnocladus dioicus) -  is a deciduous medium sized tree with large, coarse, wide hanging pods that are red-brown when ripe.  It is best distinguished by it's large leaflets, large flowers, scaly bark and inflated fruit.  At maturity it can reach 18-30 m tall and grows in an erect single trunked, with a low branching habit.  The crown of the Kentucky Coffeetree is usually narrow or broad, pyramidal or rounded in shape.  It is a member of the Fabaceae (Bean) Family and included in the very small Gymnoclaudus genus which only contains 2 species (the other is native to China).

The leaves are large up to  30 inches long, divided into pairs of opposite side stalks with 6-14 oval leaflets on each stalk. The flowers are greenish-white growing in large upright clusters at the ends of each twig.  The bark is a reddish brown that becomes gray and irregularly fissured with age.  The twigs are stout and reddish brown in color and hairy only when immature.  The fruit is a tough, hard, inflated, red to brown woody legume that ranges in size from 15-25 cm long and 4-5 cm broad.  Each woody legume contains 4-7 seeds that are hard coated and nearly round in shape.

The Kentucky Coffeetree grows in moist places, floodplains, riverbanks, bases of ravines and valleys.  It is found in the Central and Eastern United States from New York and Massachusetts in the North, North Dakota in the West, Georgia, Alabama and Eastern Texas in the South.  It is naturalized and planted as an ornamental further East.  It grows best in rich, light soils.  This species is unusually free of fungus, parasites and insect infestations.  It is recorded that early settlers roasted the fruit of the Coffeetree for use as a coffee substitute, this is believed to be a possible origin of it's common name.

Image Citations (photos 1, 2 & 3): Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, (Node Affiliation: International Society of Arboriculture)

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