Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Maple Leaf Oak - Quercus acerfolia

The Maple Leaf Oak - Quercus acerfolia is a very unique, very rare member of the Oak (Quercus) Species on the Red Oak (Fagaceae) family.  It is considered a threatened/protected due to loss of natural habitat. The leaves are Maple like in shape and are broader then they are long, which is unusual for an Oak tree. The Maple Leaf Oak also has a very tiny growth range, made up of only a few counties in Eastern and Central Arkansas. It prefers dry slopes and ridges between 500-800 m and is deciduous in habit. As a member of the Red Oak- Fagaceae family, it also is relatively small reaching maximum heights of only 50 feet tall (which is large in comparison with many other families but not the Oaks).   


Image Citation:  Brent Baker/Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission.

The Maple Leaf Oak earned it's name because of the unique leaf shape, they are broadly elliptic to round and shaped like a Maple leaf. The blades of the leaves are 7-14 cm long and 10-15 cm broad.  The yellowish green foliage appears in April, changing to a lovely Red in the Fall. The flowers are insignificant in size and are yellow green in color.  The fruit is an acorn (like other Oaks) 4-7 mm deep, enclosing less than 1/3 of the egg shaped nut. The grayish bark is smooth in early years, but acquires dark ridging on the trunk with maturity.  



Recommended for hardiness zones 5-8 Maple Leaf Oak is considered to be easily grown, drought tolerant and have minimal problems (though like most other Oaks it is susceptible to damage by many insects).  Maple Leaf Oak is closely related to the Shumard Oak - Quercus Shumardii and was for a long time thought to be a variant of that species, in that case it is referred to as Quercus Shumardii var. acerfolia.  Originally recorded in 1926 by Palmer, it was not until recent years that the tree was given it's own full species status because of the difference in not only the leaves but the acorn morphology.   It is ideally planted as a specimen tree or focal point in any garden residential or commercially. Due to it's rarity however, it may be hard to find on the commercial market.



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Monday, June 29, 2020

El Arbol del Tule - The Tree of Tule - Oaxaca, Mexico

"The Tree of Tule" or "El Arbol del Tule" as it is called in the Mexican state of Oaxaca where it is located, is among one the the largest trees in the world. It is a Montezuma Cypress (Taxodium mucronatum), which was once very abundant in Mexico. Montezuma Cypress are closely related to the Swamp and Bald Cypress.  It is said to be large enough to shelter upwards of 500 people and requires 30+ people with hands outstretched to circle the trunk.



Image Citation: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The Arbol del Tule has the stoutest trunk of any known living tree in the world. The trunk when last measured in 2005 had a circumference of an astounding 137.8 feet and a diameter of 46.1 feet. The trunk is heavily bustressed which makes it very hard to get an accurate measurement. The height of the tree has been measured at 115-140 feet depending on the type of measurement used. At one point it was thought to be multiple trees that had grown together, though a DNA test proved it is only one tree.   The estimated age of the tree is somewhere between 1200 and 3000 years old.     In 1990, there was a report released that showed the tree is slowly declining because of the heavy pollution and nearby traffic that travels over the roots daily.  The Arbol del Tule is simply put a living & growing wonder of our world!


Image Citation: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The tree was once guarded heavily by the Government and was considered a natural wonder in the early 1900's, however security for the tree is now more relaxed.  The tree is located on the Church grounds in the town center of Santa María del Tule in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.  It is a very popular tourist attraction and the fee for entrance to get a "closer' look is 10 pesos.  Young children are often used as mini tour guides to help point out the many animal shapes "seen" in the trees extremely rigid and textured trunk.  Santa Maria del Tule can be reached by car by traveling east on Highway 190 from Oaxaca, Mexico. Tour buses travel round trip from Oaxaca to Santa Maria del Tule seven days of the week. Local residents celebrate the famous Tule Tree on the second Monday in October, which was set aside as a holiday to celebrate this amazing tree, the celebration is often said to be as large as the tree itself.  Though the Arbol del Tule tree is the most famous because of it's size, there are actually 7 other large Montezuma Cypress growing in this one town that also deserve a visit (if you are in town)!  Learn more or plan you visit at: http://www.oaxaca-mio.com/



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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Ashikaga Flower Park in Japan

Japan’s largest wisteria located in Ashikaga Flower Park in Japan, is certainly not the largest in the world, but it still measures in at an impressive half an acre and dates back to around 1870.  Is also referred to as the most beautiful Wisteria in the World.  The blooms range in color from pale red, purple, yellow and white depending on variety.
   
Park Description from Roadtrippers.com : "Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture is famous for its wisteria blossoms. Elaborate supports to the three big wisteria trees cover an area of about 1,000㎡. The best times to visit Ashikaga Flower Park is from mid April to mid May. It is a truly unique attraction; the blossom starts with light pink blooms first in the season, followed by purple wisteria, white and then yellow. Just before you decide to visit the park, I recommend to check the official website for the latest status of the blossoms."
 
Image Citations (Photos 1 & 2): Roadtrippers.com

This is not the home of the largest Wisteria vine in the world, the record holder measures in at about 4,000 square meters, and is located in Sierra Madre, California.  Although wisterias can look like trees, they’re actually vines. Because the vines have the potential to get very heavy, these particular plants entire structures are held up on steel supports, allowing visitors to walk below their canopies and bask in the pink and purple light cast by its beautiful hanging blossoms.

Price for entry into the park depends on the season and what/how many plants are in bloom.  The Wisteria bloom in Ashikaga Flower Park from April to May annually.  The park is a popular tourist destination so be sure to plan your visit well.  For more on Ashikaga Flower Park in Japan visit the parks website (English Version)   http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/english/  or in person

Ashikaga Flower Park

329-4216 Tochigi Prefecture
Totigi [Tochigi] 329-4216 Japan
+81-284-91-4939

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Cashew Tree - Anacardium occidentale

The Cashew Tree  Anacardium occidentale is a tropical evergreen that produces the Cashew seed and Cashew Apple.  Reaching heights of around 45 feet it is not a large tree by any means.  The trunk is generally short and irregular in form.  The dwarf variety is considered to be more profitable having earlier production maturity and higher yields at around 20 ft tall.  Native to Brazil, Portuguese colonist were recorded to export the tree and nuts as early as 1550.  Currently there is major Cashew production occurring in Vietnam, India, Nigeria and The Ivory Coast.  During the 21st century Cashew cultivation has significantly increased to meet new demands for manufacturing of Cashew Milk a plant based alternative to Dairy Milk.  In 2017, globally the production of Cashews was measured in tonnes at 3,971,046 with the leading producer being Vietnam 22%, India 19% and the Ivory Coast 18%. Benin, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Mozambique and Tanzania are all also notable producers.


The leaves of the Cashew Tree are spirally arranged, elliptic to obvate in shape and leathery in texture.  The flowers are produced in panicle or corymb up to 10 inches in length.  Flowers begin as small and pale green in color, becoming red and slender with maturity.  The Cashew Nut, simply called Cashew is widely consumed throughout the world.  It can be eaten alone, used in baking, as a salad topping or processed into Cashew Cheese or Cashew butter.   The Cashew Apple is a light red to yellow fruit similar to a gourd in appearance, it is an accessory or false fruit.  The pulp of this false fruit can be processed and made into a astringent but sweet drink or distilled into liquor.  The actual fruit of the tree is the kidney shaped drupe that occurs at the base of each Cashew Apple. Within each true fruit is a single seed (or nut), this seed is surrounded by a double shell that contains a resin that is an allergenic phenolic, called anacardic acid.  Anacardic acid is chemically related to Urushiol which is the toxin found in Poison Ivy.  For this reason Cashews are not readily available or sold in shell direct to consumers.




We recently visited Saint Lucia (one stop on a cruise) and while there we toured the Drive In Volcano / Geothermal Area near Soufrière. There at the site just on the edge of the overlook was a lone Cashew tree, the first I have ever seen in person (and not in a book) so I was quite intrigued.   The tour guide explained how the Cashew was not native to the island, but was introduced over 100 years ago and is now found throughout the island. She also explained in depth about the risks of eating or handling an "unprocessed" Cashew because of what she called the "poisonous shell".  The tree itself appeared to be mature between 35-40 ft tall and has had obvious damage from what I assume to be weather combined with tourist over the years.  Perched at the edge of the overlook it is only protected by a small rail system but otherwise is right in the flow of foot traffic.  It's trunk is irregular and gnarly in appearance and part of the canopy appears to have broken out well before our visit, though it still hangs on directly above the (Smelly) Sulphur Springs bubbling below.  Another testament to the strength and determination we so often see in nature.


Photo Credits (1, 2 & 3): Amy Gilliss, Arundel Tree Service 
Location - Sulphur Springs (geothermal area) Soufrière, Saint Lucia.
It was very hard to photograph trees in this crowded tourist area as they are not the "attractions" to others ;-) 


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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tree Destinations: Joshua Tree National Park, California

The Joshua Tree national park is approximately 800,000 acres, the park is made up of a very diverse ecosystem and is located in Southeastern California.  The park itself did not become a National Park until 1994, however it has been protected as a US Monument since 1936.   Named for it's Joshua Trees Yucca brevifolia which grow in the dryer and cooler Mohave Desert areas of the park.  The Joshua trees grow in both forest type areas as well as sparce single specimens.  The Joshua Trees are the dominant tree in the open areas of the park, however the Pinyon Pine is more common in the areas where there are rock outcroppings.  Joshua trees are often described as something that should be found in a Dr.Suess story, they are often twisted or curvy, not quite symmetrical, with a top heavy appearance and usually a single trunk.  Within the park the tallest tree is forty feet high, it is located within the Queen Valley Forest.  Joshua trees do not have growth rings, but instead their trunks are made up of  thousands of small fibers which makes it harder to gauge the age of each tree.  The best way to determine the age of a Joshua Tree is to estimate based on it height as they are very slow growers and only grow 1/2 - 3 inches per year.  Researchers estimate that the life span of the Joshua tree is only about 150, however there are specimens growing within this park that far exceed that age.


Image Citation:  Greg Bartman, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org



More then half of the park is considered to be wilderness area.  The park includes parts of two very unique deserts, The Mohave (higher) and the Colorado (lower) Deserts, Mountain Terrain, Oases, Rock Formations, as well as flatlands.  The characteristics of each desert area is greatly influenced by the elevations where they are located.  The Little San Bernardino Mountains also run through the Southwest portion of the Park.

Day by day and area to area the appearance of the park can greatly and rapidly change, with very quick  (yet sparce) downpours coming from what seems like out of no where, to high winds, to calm dry desert days that seem to have no end.  Sometimes the plants look dry and possibly even dead but most are just waiting for the next rain to come to bring them back to life.  Only 158 naturally occurring Palm Oases are found in North America, 5 of them are within the Joshua Tree National Parks boundaries. Generally occurring along fault lines where impermeable rocks force groundwater to the surface, a Oasis provides constant water to what would otherwise be a constantly dry and arid area.


Image Citation: Greg Bartman, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

There is so much to do here within this beautiful park, Hiking, Biking, Rock Climbing, Camping, Birding and Star Gazing just to name a few.  There are nine campgrounds established within the park.  There is a fee for camping and reservations can be made in some campgrounds October through May, while the other campgrounds are first-come, first-served.  Back-country camping, is also permitted with a few regulations in some areas, be sure to check with the park for more details on this option.  As far as hiking, riding and lookout points go there are too many to list in this amazingly beautiful National Park,  so just to name a few there are: Keys View, Indian Cove, Hidden Valley, Cholla Cactus Garden, Contact Mine, Forty Nine Palms Oasis, Lost Horse Mine, Lost Pine Oasis, California Riding and Hiking Trail (a 35 mile portion falls within the park), Rattlesnake Canyon, Barker Dam, Saltan Sea, Ryan Mountain, Warren Peak, and various Native American sites (some of which have been closed to the public over the years due to damage from vandals).


Image Citation:  "Joshua Tree National Park 2013" by Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - Wikimedia Images Link


Despite the landscape that may seem barren at times, many types of wildlife call Joshua Tree National Park home including various lizards, coyote, kangaroo rats, black tailed rabbits, big horned sheep, ground squirrels and other small rodents.  There are also an estimated 250 varieties of birds that have been spotted throughout the park including many migrating species during the Winter season.  It is also estimated that the park is home to thousands of Anthropods (creatures with multiple legs, segmented bodies and hardened outer shells) the most notable residents of this variety include tarantulas, honey pot ants, fairy shrimp, giant desert scorpions and green darners.  There are at least 75 different types of butterflies and more then twice that number of moths.


Image Citation: "JoshuatreeNP" by NASA - http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=36836. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - Wikimedia Images Link

Learn more about this amazing National Park & plan your visit http://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm or http://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Red Maple - Acer rubrum (also called Scarlet Maple, Swamp Maple, Water Maple, White Maple or Soft Maple-regionally)

The Red Maple - Acer rubrum, is also called Scarlet Maple, Swamp Maple, Water Maple, White Maple or Soft Maple in different regions. It is one of the most abundant trees in the forests of the Eastern United States, and can be found growing from Florida in the South to Canada in the North.  Red Maple is harvested and marketed as soft Maple, it is valued on a limited basis for Maple Syrup production, but is most valued as a strong and durable urban tree.  A medium to large sized deciduous tree with the potential of reaching 60-90 feet tall in ideal conditions, The Red Maple is a fast grower with beautiful fall foliage and the ability to thrive in even poor or degraded soil conditions.



(Canopy and bark) Image Citation: David Stephens, Bugwood.org



(Fall Color) Image Citation: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Red Maple can pose a challenge when it comes to identification as the features and characteristics of the tree change as the tree ages.  When small the bark is thin, smooth, and light gray in color, becoming thicker and a gray-brown with age and developing flaky thick bark from the trunk up to the limbs, smooth patches generally remain high in the branches into maturity and in patches on the trunk during the transitional period.  Slender and young branch tips are often bright red in color and the forked trunks and limbs that grow from the trunk usually have sharp V shaped crotches.  The leaves are opposite and simple in form, 2.5 - 4 inches in length and width, with wide, pointed, toothed lobes.  Generally the leaves all contain three large lobes, and occasionally two additional smaller lobes.  The leaves are Green on the upper surface with a whitish underside, and become a vibrant scarlet, yellow or orange in the fall.  The sinuses between lobes generally form sharp V shaped notches.  The flowers are uni-sexual and tiny red or orange in color with 4-5 sepals and petals each, generally male and female flowers occur as separate trees. only occasionally on the same tree.  The fruit occurs in paired Samaras (lovingly called "helicopters" by many) 1.5-3 cm long often bright red in color, maturing or shedding before or with leaf emergence.  


(Foliage/Fall) Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org


(Fruit) Image Citation: Wendy VanDyk Evans, Bugwood.org


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Friday, June 19, 2020

Wax Myrtle / Southern Wax Myrtle - Myrica cerifera or Morella cerifera

The Wax Myrtle / Southern Wax Myrtle - Myrica cerifera or Morella cerifera is a small evergreen shrub or small tree, that reaches heights of only 36 feet tall on average.  The Wax Myrtle most often forms in colonies from underground rhizomes.  Growing in an erect, leaning, or ascending form with multiple trucks and low branching habit that usually begins close to the ground.  The crown is dense and branches grow in upright or ascending. Native to a wide variety of habitats including bogs, fresh water banks, bracish water ponds, inlets, swamps, hammocks, swales and mixed upland woods.  Found mostly in the Southeastern coastal plains from Maryland and Delaware throughout south Florida, west through southern Arkansas and eastern Texas.  


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

The leaves are alterante and simple in form, aromatic when crushed, tapered at the base, blunt or rounded, margins along the entire length of the leaves and toothed at least near the tip.  The upper surface dark green, while the underside is paler in color.  The flowers male and female on separate plants, petals and sepals are absent, inflorence occur erect at the leaf axil.  The fruit is rounded whitish gray in color, in a waxy nutlike drupe, 2-4 mm in diameter, maturing between Summer and Autumn each year.  


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

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