Monday, February 17, 2020

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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Friday, February 14, 2020

Austrian Pine (also called the European Black Pine)

The Austrian Pine (also called the European Black Pine) is a medium sized evergreen that reaches heights of 60 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter.  Similar to the Eastern White Pine and Red Pine, each year it grows a set of limbs in a whorled pattern around the trunk that resemble spokes on the hub of a wheel.  The limbs of the Austrian Pine form a large, thick, pyramidal crown that is filled with dark green needle-like foliage.  This variety was one of the first trees introduced into the United States, often planted by homesteaders in the treeless Great Plains for protection from the sun, wind and snow.   Native to Europe the Austrian Pine was first imported in the eighteenth century and has been widely planted as an ornamental through the middle and eastern United States.  It's tolerance to salt and sulfur dioxide damage make it popular as an Urban Tree as well.



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

In the Northern United States the Austrian Pine is often confused with the native Red Pine as they are similar in appearance, though the trained eye is able to distinguished between the two by inspecting the bark color.  The evergreen needles range in size from 3-6 inches long and are bundled in sets of two.  The needles are slender, shiny, stiff and dark blue-green in color.  The cones are egg shaped and 2-3 inches in length at maturity.  When the cones open and shed their seeds, they remain on the tree for several years before eventually falling from the tree.  The bark of the trunk is a dark gray to dull/dark brown with a thin surface of flat plates that thicken with age.



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

Thursday, February 13, 2020

White Oak - Quercus alba

The "White Oak" - Quercus alba - is one of the most prominent and well recognized trees in our area. It is a long lived tree, with some recorded still living at 450 years. Maryland's famous Wye Oak (in Wye Mills, Maryland) was estimated to be over 450 years old when it was knocked down by a storm in 2002. The White Oak is the state tree of Maryland, Connecticut and Illinois, It's native range is from Quebec in the North, Minnesota in the West and Texas-Florida in the South. It is not a very tall tree, with an average height of 80-100 feet at maturity.


Wye Oak-Image Citation: Martin MacKenzie, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The bark is a light grey color with very rigid and noticeable fissures. The leaves are green in color ranging from 5-8 inches in length, changing to a red-brown in the Autumn season. White Oaks will sometimes hold their dead brown leaves over winter, these leaves will fall out in the Spring with the new growth. The wood is pale brown in color, solid, heavy and durable. The acorns appear annually, they are cup shaped and are a shiny brown in color.


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

The White Oak is a food source for many forest animals. Deer and Rabbits will nibble on the twigs and sometimes dead leaves. The acorns are a favorite of Turkeys, Wood Ducks, Pheasants, Jays, Nuthatches and Woodpeckers. The White Oak is also the only known food source for Bucculatrix luteella and Bucculatrix ochrisuffusa caterpillars.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Waterlocust-Gleditisia aquatica

The Waterlocust-Gleditisia aquatica, is a medium sized deciduous tree that can reach heights of 50-60 feet tall. In open areas it tends to grow with a stout trunk and crooked limbs beginning low on the ground. In forest settings the tree grows straight up, forming a long limb free trunk and rounded crown. Regardless of the shape of the tree the limbs are usually armed with long, slender, sharp thorns that are sometimes forked and could be up to 4 inches long. The Waterlocust is usually found growing in moist areas, flooded swamps and river bottoms. It can be found growing along the Atlantic and Gulf plains from North Carolina to eastern Texas, extending up the Mississippi River floodplains to Southern Illinois and southwestern Indiana.

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

Waterlocust leaves are compound or doubly compound, paired on lateral spurs that are 6-10 inches long with 12-20 oval blunt toothed leaflets. The leaflet surfaces are dark green to yellow-green in color above and slightly lighter below. The fruit is short and flat 1-3 inches long and 1 inch wide with 3 seeds inside. Pods are generally found hanging down in clusters but can be found singly on occasion.  Waterlocust are found in hardiness zones 6-9 and prefer a mix of shade and sun. They have an extensive root system and can be planted to help control erosion. The lumber from Waterlocust trees is used for custom cabinet building and in applications that require a durable wood capable or withstanding long term soil contact.

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

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Ohio Buckeye- Aesculus glabra

The Ohio Buckeye- Aesculus glabra - is a medium sized rounded crown Deciduous tree. Growing to only 20-40 feet tall at maturity, it has a moderate growth rate.  It is the most widespread of all of the Buckeyes in North America. It's range is on mostly mesophytic sites through Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Southern Michigan on West to Illinois and Central Iowa, extending South to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Central Texas; East into portions of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama. This tree thrives best in moist locations and is most frequently found along river bottoms and in streambank soils.  It has been planted frequently outside of it's native range in Europe and the Eastern United States.  Different from the other Buckeyes because of two main features, first the leaflets have barely any visible stalk and second the husk of the fruit has short spines.  The Ohio Buckeye is sometimes referred to as the American Buckeye, Fetid buckeye, and Stinking Buck-eye, the last because of the foul odor emitted when the leaves are crushed.

Image Citations (Photos 1, 2, & 3): T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org 

Ohio Buckeye is polygamo-monoecious, meaning it bears both bisexual and male flowers. The leaves are made up of unevenly toothed leaflets that all grow from the same point on the stem, they are green during the growing season and turn an almost grey when shifting finally to wyellow in the Fall.  The flowers are a yellow-green with prominent stamens growing as upright spikes. The bark is dark grey with shallow but coarse fissures leading into square scaly plates. It flowers in the Spring and fruits from summer to fall.  This tree also produces small, shiny, dark brown nuts with a lighter tan patch


"Buckeyes" has been the official Ohio State nickname since 1950, but it had been in common use for many years before.  According to folklore, the Buckeye resembles the eye of a deer and carrying one brings good luck.


Recommended for Hardiness Zones 3-7, Buckeyes are found in larger nurseries within their growth range. 

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Monday, February 10, 2020

White Ash - Fraxinus americana

The White Ash - Fraxinus americana, is best identified by it's opposite compound leaves with 5-9 leaflets that are whitish on the undersides. It is a large deciduous tree that reaches heights of 40 - 90 feet tall, it grows in a erect fashion with a single trunk. It is native to upland woods, floodplains, dry hills, hammocks, and cove forests. It's range is widespread along the East coast, from Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec in the North, West through Eastern Nebraska and Eastern Texas.

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


The bark is scaly, grayish, narrowly ridged and furrowed with furrows forming diamond patterns towards the base. The leaves are opposite, pinnately compound, 5-9 ovate leaflets with bluntly toothed margins. The upper leaf surfaces are dark green while the lowers are whitish, hairy when immature. Fall leaf color ranges from red to maroon to yellow. The fruit is a narrowly elliptic or linear samara that ranges from 2.5-3.2 cm long that matures in late summer to early fall each year.

Image Citation: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org

There are three other variations of White Ash that were originally grouped together as one species. They are now identified as individual species the Texas Ash - Fraxinus albicans Buckley, Biltmore Ash - Fraxinus biltmoreana Beadle, and Fraxinus smallii. The ranges of these smaller species are much smaller and overlap the native range of the White Ash but not one another.

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Friday, February 7, 2020

Balsam Fir - Abies balsamea

Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), is a small to medium sized evergreen tree that reaches heights of between 40-60 feet tall and grows in a pyramidal form.   Balsam grows in an upright pyramidal form. It is commercially important within it's native growth range, it is harvested for pulpwood, light frame construction material and as a Christmas tree.  Balsam is a close second to the Fraser as a popular Christmas tree variety, they are very similar to one another in many aspects.   Many types of wildlife, birds and mammals rely on the Balsam Fir for protection from the weather and for food from twigs and seeds. Considered a Canadian tree, it is found growing south through the Northern edges of Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Iowa and most of New England.  


Image Citation: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The short awl shaped needles are flat and long lasting, they have a series of light stripes along the bottom that make the needles appear silver gray from below.  On lower branches needles occur in two rows along sides of the branch, 3/4 - 1 1/2 inches long, spreading in form and not crowded.  On older branches, the needles tend to be shorter and curved upward covering the upper sides of the twigs.  Yields cones 2–4" in length that start out dark purple, turning gray-brown and resinous at maturity. Once the seeds are ripe, the scales fall off, leaving only the central axis of the cone in spike like stems on the branches. Seed crops occur at 2–4 year intervals and when present the small cones stand erect on branches the first year.


Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

Balsam Fir is recommended for hardiness zones 3-5, and is a slow growing gaining less then 12 inches each year.  This variety prefers full sun or partial shade, with four hours of unfiltered light recommended daily and cool, moist, well drained soils.  The Balsam was named for the resin (also called balsam) that is found on the bark ridges and wounds, this resin was used during the civil war to treat wounds.  

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