Friday, March 15, 2019

Pacific Yew - Taxus breifolia

The Pacific Yew - Taxus breifolia - is an extremely slow grower that sometimes rots from the inside, making it hard to determine the age by counting growth rings. The trunk often appears twisted and asymmetrical when left to grow in open areas but when growing in the tight confines of a thick forest it has little option but to grow straight. This conifer is native to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, from the southern portions of Alaska in the North through the Northern portions of California in the South. To the untrained eye it can easily be mistaken for a baby Hemlock , the best way to tell the difference between a Hemlock and a Yew is to look at the underside of the needles, Hemlock will be silvery in color and Yew will be a yellowish-green. The California Torreya also resembles the Pacific Yew, though it has longer needles and has seed coverings that are more plumlike and streaked in purple.

Image Citation: Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired),

The fleshy coral colored fruit is frequently eaten by birds even though it contains a poisonous seed. The seeds simply passes through their bodies intact so it does not harm them. The fruit has a sweet mucilaginous pulp that surrounds the seed. The bark is thin, scaly and brown to reddish-purple in color. The bark scales off in thin irregular patches. The flowers are pale yellow (male) and appear in axils of scales on short branches.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Downy Hawthorn - Crataegus mollis

The Downy Hawthorn - Crataegus mollis - is a relatively small tree or large shrub that reaches 25-35 feet at maturity.  It generally grows in a single trunk but can also grow in a multi trunk or shrub form.  Because of the dense branching structure and thorns, Downy Hawthorn and other hawthorns provide great nesting habitat for the Yellow-Breasted Chat, Brown Thrasher, and other small birds. They also provide excellent protective covering for birds and other wildlife during the summer.  The pollen & nectar attracts various bees, flies and beetles.  Other insects such as caterpillars and moths feed on the foliage, flowers and wood of the Downy Hawthorn.

The trunk bark is roughly textured, shallowly furrowed and a grey-brown in color.  The branch bark is smoother, and slightly lighter in color.  Young branches are non-woody and green.  The root system is woody and branching in habit, and it spreads by reseeding itself.  The leaves are simple, oval in shape and shallowly clefted with 3-5 lobes along the edges.  The leaves are generally bluntly pointed rather then rounded.  The margins are serrated or double serrated and the leaf bases are slightly cordate to truncate. Upper leaf surfaces are medium to yellow green in color while the lowers are pale green and pubescent.

White flowers are produced on short spur twigs, they are 1-3 inches across and generally flat headed.  The blooming period is short lasting only about two weeks during the late Spring.  The flowers have a foul often pungent odor.  Fertile flowers are replaced by small apple-like fruits that become ¾-1" across at maturity during late summer. Young fruits are light green and pubescent, while mature fruit are yellowish red to scarlet and hairless.  The fruits each have 4-5 chunky seeds.  

Photo Citations (Photos - 1, 2 & 3) Richard Webb,

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Portia - Thespesia populnea

The Portia - Thespesia populnea, is an evergreen shrub or small bushy tree that reaches heights of 10-30 feet tall.  Growing in in an erect form with either a single or multiple trunks and low branching habit.  It was introduced to the United States, but is native to Old and New world tropic locations, it has escaped cultivation and established itself on disturbed sites, coastal hammocks and beaches in South Florida.  In South Florida this species is considered to be invasive as it has a very weedy tendancy.  Thespesia is a genus of about 17  species that are distributed only in the tropical parts of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Australia.  

Image Citation: Dan Clark, USDI National Park Service,

The leaves of the Portia are alternate, simple, ovate, with a heart shaped base and long pointed tip.  The flowers are Corrolla yellow with a red or maroon base inside of the bloom.  Flowers are bell shaped about 8 cm in diameter with a staminal column about 2.5 cm long, occuring year round. The fruit that also occurs year round, is flattened or rounded in the form of a leathery capsule.  When young the fruit is yellow, becoming black when mature, the seeds are brown and hairy.  The bark is smooth brown with gray mollting.

Image Citation: William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International,

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Laurel Oak (aka Darlington Oak) - Quercus hemisphaerica

The Laurel Oak (Darlington Oak) - Quercus hemisphaerica, is a large semi-evergreen that can reach upwards of 80 feet tall.  Due to it's semi-evergreen nature the tree slowly loses leaves throughout the winter months but still has some green leaves remaining in the Spring season when the new leaves begin to appear.  The Laurel Oak is most often planted as an ornamental tree.  Naturally the Laurel Oak is found growing in waterways and bottom lands where the ground remains moist .  Although it prefers wet areas, it can still preform well in dry soils.  Naturally the Laurel Oak is found growing along the Coastal Plain from Southeastern Virginia up the Mississippi River floodplain to Kentucky. 

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

Even in the Winter season, the leaves are the fastest way to identify the tree.  The leaves are narrow and long, 2-4 inches long and 1/2 to 1 inch wide and may be rounded or tapered before flaring out gently along the length of the blade.  The rough bark pattern becomes smoother on the upper trunk and along the major limbs.  Unlike most Oaks the leaves of the Laurel Oak easily break when bent.  The acorn is 1/2 inch long and almost perfectly rounded, 1/4 of the nut is enclosed by a saucer shaped cup.  Acorns take two full years to mature.  

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

Very similar to the Diamondleaf Oak, although the leaves differ on the lower surfaces, vein axils and habitat.  The Bluejack Oak is another similar species however their leaves have a blue or gray tint.  

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Japanese Pagoda Tree - Styphnolobium japonicum

Japanese Pagoda Tree - Styphnolobium japonicum, is recognized by the combination of  pinnate leaves, white or yellow to white flowers and yellow to brown, necklace like legume.  It is a deciduous tree that reaches heights of about 60-65 feet tall. Growing in an erect form with a single trunk and broad crown.  It was introduced from Asia and is cultivated and now naturalized from Pennsylvania and Ohio in the North to North Carolina in the South. 

Image Citation: Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft.,

The Styphnolobium or Necklacepods is a small genus, made up of only 7 species of shrubs and trees.  The leaves are always alternate and pinnately compound and the flowers bisexual.  The fruit is a very distinct beadlike legume and the seeds are toxic.  The species in this genus have been commonly grouped with the Sophora, unlike the Sophora species, they lack the ability the fix atmospheric nitrogen.  

Image Citation: Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft.,

The bark of the Japanese Pagoda Tree is gray-brown and ridged with elongated vertical furrows.  The leaves are alternate and pinnate, the blades are 15-25 cm long and about 11 cm broad.  The leaflets are 7-17 in number alternate and opposite.  The flowers are bisexual and either Corrolla White or Yellow White in color and about 1 cm long each.  The fruit is hairless and yellow-green to light brown in color and in the form of 8-20 cm long legumes with seed compartments that mature in Autumn and persist into Winter.  

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Friday, March 8, 2019

Cherrybark Oak - Quercus pagoda

Cherrybark Oak - Quercus pagoda, is most easily recognized by the combination of leaves with 5-11 marginal lobes and hairy lower surface, large buds and bark that is very similar to that of a Black Cherry.  It is a deciduous tree, potentially reaches heights of 60-80 feet tall.   Growing in an erect upright fashion with a single trunk which is generally clear of branches on the trunk.  The Cherrybark Oak prefers a bottomland, floodplain forest, lower slopes, river beds and other areas that are subject to periodic flooding.  The Overcup Oak is another Oak that is commonly found growing in the same habitat areas, however they are not very similar in appearance having very different leaves and acorns.  

Image Citation: Brian Lockhart, USDA Forest Service,

The leaves of Cherrybark Oak are alternate, simple, ovate or elliptic to nearly obvate.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous and dark green in color hairy when immature.  The lower leaf surface is paler and densely hairy and soft to the touch.  The fruit is in the form of an acorn with a cup that is 3-7 mm deep, brown in color, rounded and striped.  This is one of the largest and fastest growing of all the Southern Oaks.  

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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Oysterwood - Gymnanthes lucida

Oysterwood - Gymnanthes lucida (also called the Crabwood), is the only tree native to Florida whos leaves have an eared base.  It grows in an erect form with a single trunk and narrow crown.  It is found in Hammocks in the Florida Keys and Southern Florida only.  A member of the very small genus Gymnanthes which is made up of only 12 species a distributed in the American tropics, Oysterwood is the only member found in North America.  It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that reaches height of only about 30 feet tall.  

Image Citation: Dan Clark, USDI National Park Service,

The bark of the Oysterwood is smooth, sometimes finely fissured, and gray-brown in color. The leaves are alternate, simple, leathery, elliptic with a distinct ear shape at the base.  The flowers are unisexual, with male and female on the same tree.  Flowers are mostly absent of petals and sepals.  Male flowers occur in elongated racemes reaches up to 5 cm long, but remaining shorter then the leaves.  Female flowers are solitary at the tip of a long stalk that arises from the base of the male raceme.  Flowers occur between Summer and Winter annually.  The fruit is rounded, 3 part with a dark brown capsule that reaches up to 12mm in diameter.  

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