Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Alder trees -Alnus are a very small group of trees and shrub, made up of only 30 varieties most of which are native to the Northern temperate areas. Ten of which are native specifically to North America half of these can be grown as either shrubs or trees. As a whole, Alders rarely grown to over 70 feet tall. They are relatively fast growers and are short lived not recorded to live very often beyond 100 years.
Image Citation: Brian Lockhart, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Alders are considered part of the larger Birch family since they are very similar in habit and appearance, however there are two things that set them apart from Birch trees. The first is the fruit of the Alder not only resembles a small cone, but when ripe it becomes hard and woody very much like a cone. The second is that the roots of the Alder grow nodules that house nitrifying bacteria which enables these trees to grow well in bare or poor soils that lack the nitrates the plants need to survive. When the leaves of the trees fall each year and decay they enrich the soil, this enables other tree species to eventually grow in these once uninhabitable areas as well.. Red and Gray Alders are commonly planted along the edges of newly constructed roads and in quarry spoils for this very reason. In its native growth range, the Alder is commonly seen as one of the first signs of new growth in previously burned or logged forests. They are also usefully grown along the banks of rivers and ponds as their root systems will extend down into the water creating a stronger bank and helping with erosion control.
Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org
The Alders wood is durable in water, it is hard and dense in quality. The wood is also used to make charcoal for gunpowder. It has been used for both bank and canal construction.
It is recorded in Welsch Mythology that the Alder fought in the great "Battle of Trees" against the dark spirits of the underworld. When cut the wood of the Alder turns from white to red which is said to signify the tree is bleeding.
Native Americans not only made tools and utensils from the Alders wood but they also extracted and used the red dye from it's wood as well. Twigs, leaf buds, leaves and catkins (both male and female) all have medicinal purposes.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
The Cottonwood - Populus deltoides - is a tall deciduous shade tree with a large spreading crown, named for its cotton-like seeds. It is part of the Poplar family, this diverse family includes the quaking aspen, which boasts the widest range of any North American tree, and the Plains cottonwood, which was the only tree many early settlers met as they forged westward through America's prairies. It is also one of the largest North American hardwood trees.
Image Citation: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Eastern Cottonwood grow from 60 to 100 feet tall. The leaves are almost triangular in shape, 3-5" long and wide. In the Spring the start as a Shiny Green then turning a bright yellow-gold in fall. The leaves are alternate and simple, with coarsely toothed (crenate/serrate) edges, and subcordate at the base. Male and female flowers occur on separate catkins, and appear before the leaves in spring. The seeds are within a cottony structures that allows them to be blown long distances in the air before settling to ground. Their fruit consists of egg-shaped capsules averaging 1/2" long, that mature in spring and split into three parts. Bark is gray, thick, rough and deeply furrowed. The cottonwoods have a rapid growth rate and are also adaptable to many soils and climates. They are very resistant to flood damage but do not fair well with wind or heavy ice storms. Recommended for growth Zones 2-9
Image Citations: (Bark-Left) Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org & (Seeds/Cotton-Right) Troy Evans, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bugwood.org
Cottonwood trunks provided a great material for early timber homes and canoe making. Their bark was used to produce food for horses and a bitter medicinal or healing tea. In regions with few trees, the very noticeable cottonwoods often served as gathering places and trail markers, and as sacred objects for several Plains tribes, they were also a sure sign that water was nearby as when found in the wild their roots almost always are near a water source. Today, Cottonwood's are most commonly used to produce some interior grade furniture, plywood, matches, crates, boxes, and paper pulp. The lumber is considered weak, soft, light and often warps during the drying process.
Monday, June 22, 2015
The Sassafras - Sassafras albidum is a member of the Laurel family. Having only three varieties, two of which are native to China and Taiwan, and the other is native to the Eastern portion of the United States. Spreading by suckers growing from the roots, in it's natural habitat it is commonly found growing along the woods edge and fields or as the under story of a forest.
Image Citation: (Photo 1) USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, SRS, Bugwood.org & (Photo 2) The Dow Gardens Archive, Dow Gardens, Bugwood.org
The fruit from the Sassafras is blue in color when mature starting at clear and red when young. Growing from red stems the fruit grow in an almost ornamental pattern. The fruit/berries are a favorite of small birds such as Finches in the Spring and Summer. Like the Amercian Holly, the Sassafras is dioecious, meaning the pistallate and staminate flowers mostly grow on different trees.
Image Citation: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Forestry Archive, Bugwood.org
The Sassafras tree has a unique scent that is recognizable even before the tree is in view, the oil that produces the scent is in the roots, the leaves and even the bark of the tree. Teas can be made by steeping the roots of the tree-Native American are recorded to have used this tea to treat many ailments. The oil was also used as the flavoring for traditional Root Beer prior to it's use being banned by the FDA in 1960 because of the Safrole found in the oil was thought to be a possible carcinogen. This banned was reversed partially in 1994 but new restrictions were put into place to be sure that the Safrole was removed prior to human consumption . File Powder, is a spicy herb made from dried and ground leaves. It was traditionally used by Native Americans in the South, and was adopted into Creole cuisine in Louisiana as a very commonly used ingredient.
Image Citations (Left & Right Photos): Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org
The foliage of the Sassafras is very unique having as many as three varying type of leaves. The leaves can vary from single lobes, double lobed or mitten shaped to triple lobed. They are green in color during the growing season and in the fall put on a very beautiful show. The leaves will vary in color in the fall from Yellow, Orange, Scarlet and Crimson.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
The River Birch - Betula nigra - is very true to it's name, growing naturally near the banks of Rivers, Creeks and other wet areas. In many areas even serving as a natural erosion control on banks and in low lying areas. The natural distribution runs in almost a U pattern accross the central and Eastern United States. It is found as far north as Massachusetts and Connecticut in the East, Wisconsin and Minnesota centrally, all along the banks of the Mississippi and South from Florida to Texas and Okalahoma. It can be grown as an ornamental almost nationwide but thrives in zones 4-9. The River Birch is a deciduous tree that is considered both an Ornamental and Shade Tree.
Image Citation: (Left) -Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org & (Right) John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
The River Birch is the only Birch that bears lobed leaves with silver undersides. The leaves are a glossy green and are 2-3 inches long. Young trees often sprout new leads from a common stump and have a pinkish to coffee brown bark. Mature trees can have bark ranging from a purple-gray with orange fissures to a cinnamon, some even have small scales. This variety of Birch is somewhat tolerant of drought but grows best in moist soil. It has beautiful bark that curls and peels offering interest year round. It is a rapid growing, growing from 13-24 inches in just a single year, when mature the reach between 40-70 feet tall with a spread of 40-60 feet. This tree produces brown & green catkins from April - May which are used by Redpolls and Pine Siskins, the very small but plentiful seeds are enjoyed by many Songbirds.
Image Citation:(Left & Right) T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org
The River Birch is readily available from most Nurseries in the US and can be purchased in many different sizes and shapes. Generally growing in an oval shape when multi stemmed it can also be found with a single main trunk.
Friday, June 12, 2015
The Flowering Dogwood - Cornus florida - is by far the most common of all Dogwoods, there are about 40 varieties growing in mostly temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia. Of the 40 varieties growing worldwide only 14 varieties of these trees and shrubs are native to America. Dogwoods for the most part are considered a small deciduous tree or shrub, they have a very slow growth rate and generally do not achieve great age or size. This tree is also considered a soil improver as the leaf litter tends to decompose more rapidly then other tree species.
Image Citation: T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org
The crown grows in a bushy and open fashion with small green leaves that change to a beautiful red in the fall. The bark has a almost square pattern and is reddish-brown in color, in winter this is the main way to distinguish a Flowering Dogwood from other varieties of Dogwood such as the Kousa.
Image Citation: Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
The berries are a glossy bright red and are most showy when the leaves begin to turn, they grow in tight clusters at the end of a long stalk. The flesh of the fruit is mealy and bitter and encloses 1-2 seeds. Dogwood berries are poisonous to humans if consumed so NEVER try to taste these berries!
Image Citation: David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
The flowers are generally 3-4 inches across and are made up of 4 large bracts, surrounding a mass of tiny yellow-green true flowers, appearing before the leaves in early Spring, a welcome sight after a long winter!
Image Citations (Left Photo) : Wendy VanDyk Evans, Bugwood.org & (Right Photo): Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Native Americans used various parts of the Dogwood as a natural medicine. The root bark was used as a pain reliever, astringent, and anti-diarrhea agent. The flowers were infused to relieve fever and sooth colic pain. The bark was used as a fever reducer and often chewed to aid with sore throat.
The Flowering Dogwood is a widely grown ornamental tree found at most nurseries. It thrives in zones 5-9. Well drained soil is best for Flowering Dogwoods as they are not tolerant to drought conditions or saturated soils. Full establishment of a new planting can take anywhere from 6-12 months for each inch of trunk diameter.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
The Sitka Spruce - Picea sitchensis - is the largest of all Spruces in the world and also the fastest growing. In it's native growth range along the Pacific Coast this variety has been found growing over 305 feet tall and over 50 feet around. This paticular Spruce has the greatest North to South range from the Kodiak Island region of Alaska, through British Columbia and south through California. The largest specimens are found in the Olympic Rain Forest area. It's name originated from the area of Sitka Alaska where it is also commonly found. The oldest known Sitkas are estimated to be over 700 years old.
The Sitka is one of the prickliest of all Spruces with very hard stiff needles that are almost spine like. The old trees have broadly columnar crowns made up of large gently arched branches with short hanging shoots. The bark is thin and scaly in appearance, it flakes off in circular plates. The seeds are black with a small brown wing. The cones grow in slender cylinder shapes and hang in a pendulous manner.
Image Citation (Photo 1 & 2) : Joe Nicholson, Nature photographer, Bugwood.org
The native range of the Sitka is a predominately wet area, because of this the root systems are relatively shallow. It grows predominately in wet areas such as the Pacific Rain Forests, Floodplains, and Inlet areas off of the Pacific Ocean. In it's native region this tree is a rapid grower, in some cases adding more then a cubic meter of wood to it's size each year.
The Sitka is a very important to the lumber and paper products industry. It is relatively knot free which makes it a great wood for sound conduction, because of this quality it is commonly used in piano. harp, violin and guitar production. It was notably used to craft the Wright Brothers Flyer, as well as many other aircraft prior to World War II. Many decades of heavy logging has left very few old growth Sitka stands remaining.
Friday, June 5, 2015
The Norway Maple - Acer platanoides - is a Medium-Large Deciduous Tree that is extremely sturdy. The average height when mature is between 60-100 feet tall. This tree is known to withstand tough winters, ice, wind and even contact with road salt. It is very similar in appearance to the Sugar Maple and the two are often times mixed within planned street plantings-this usually is a result of being confused for the same variety even at the nurseries. Both are commonly planted as street trees for oth their consistent growth habit and their sturdiness. It grows best in zones 3-7 here in the United States, but is actually native to Eastern-Central Europe from France to Russia and Scandinavia and much of Southwest Asia.
Image Citation: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
The Zelkova - is a deciduous tree in the Elm family that is native to Europe and Southeast Asia. It is suceptible to Dutch Elm disease but most often survives it, this is one of the main reason why it is considered to be a replacement for the Elm tree. With a vase shape and the ability to grow 90-100 feet tall with a 60-80 foot spread. It has a moderate growth rate and thrives best in ful sun locations.
The leaves are 1 1/2 to 4 inches long, green when young and turning a brilliant orange to burnt umber in the fall. This trees crown grows in a vase shape very similar to that of the Elm. The leaves are a simple shape with serrated edges. There are not obvious flowers on this tree they are very small and inconspicuous.
The Zelkova grows in a variety of soils but prefers moist deep loams. Established specimens are highly drought resistance. This tree makes for an ideal street tree as they thrive even in pits that were they soil is restricted. It also has a high disease and salt resistance.
Image Citations: Richard Webb, Self-employed horticulturist, Bugwood.org
This tree thrives in zones 5-8 and is readily available from most local nurseries. It will make for a sturdy addition to any landscape.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
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, mosts notably two very small areas, one runs along the Kentucky and Tennessee border, and the other between Missouri, Arkansas and Okalahoma. 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 - http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/
(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.