Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Meet the Black Tupelo - Nyssa sylvatica

The Black Tupelo -Nyssa sylvatica, is a large deciduous tree averaging between 30-60 feet in height, with a few recorded to reach heights of 100 feet. It is also commonly known as the Black Gum or the Sour Gum. The most remarkable feature of the Black Tupelo is the non-scissile grain of the wood, it is not only cross woven but inter-braided as well. The wood is almost impenetrable with an ax and can only be cut with a saw.

Image Citation: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org

The leaves are hard, glossy and green in color. In the Autumn the leaves change to either entirely or partially red in color. The foliage is considered to be dense, with the crown leaves growing near the ends of the laterals. The most identifiable feature of the Black Tupelo is the dark blue fruit which appear on long stalks with a single large stone on the inside. The flesh of the fruit is thin and oily, sour and bitter. The flowers appear in the early spring and fruits in the fall. The bark is a dark reddish black in color. The texture is thick and deeply furrowed in a rectangular pattern.  The male flowers are greenish in color, tiny in size with heads on long stalks at the base of the leaves, while the female flowers are in clusters of 2-6 appearing on separate trees.

Image Citation: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org

The range begins from Maine to Northern Florida in the East and West to the Northern edges of Florida and West to Northern Michigan and down through Oklahoma and Texas. It is most common on the Coastal Plains of the Northern Atlantic state and Ohio Valley. It prefers wet soils, swamp and river edges but has also been known to thrive in upland areas as well.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Meet The Ironwood or American Hop-HornBeam - Ostrya virginiana

The Ironwood which is also known as the American Hop-Hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) is a slow growing deciduous tree with leaves resembling the Elm, though it is actually a member of the Birch (Betula) family. The Ironwood grows in a pyramidal form when young with a crown that broadens with age. The crown height is generally 15-50 feet tall with a spread of 12-30 feet. It grows best in partial shade to full sun and is recommended for hardiness zones 5-9.

Image Citation (Mature Tree): Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

The leaves are simple and oval with sharp doubly serrated edges and veins that are forked at the ends. The leaves are green in color above and a lighter yellow-green below. In the fall the leaves change to a brownish-yellow, mid orange or even sometimes red color. The flowers are Monoecious, the male catkins are usually grouped in threes and are green in color. The bloom time ranges from mid to late spring. The fruit is a brownish to tan color nutlet and enclosed in a hop-like sack. The bark is a Grayish-brown color with narrow rectangular strips which are loose on each end. The bark has a shredded appearance that is very similar to the Shagbark Hickory.

Image Citation (Foliage and Flower): Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The wood of Ironwood is hard and durable, in fact the name Ironwood is a direct reference to the strength and durability of the wood. The wood is used for fence posts, fuel, mallets, and tool handles. The bark and inner wood layers were chewed on and made into teas to treat toothaches, sore muscles, coughs, and many other ailments by The Native Americans. The Ironwood also provides winter food for Pheasants, Grouse, Squirrel, Rabbit as well as Whitetail Deer.

Image Citation (Fruit): Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.), Bugwood.org

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Meet The "Silkoak" - Grevillea robusta

The Silkoak - Grevillea robusta is a fast growing specimen tree that reaches heights of 75 feet or more with a 25 foot spread.  Growing in pyramidal to oval shape when young, which eventually develops into a few heavy horizontal limbs with one central thick trunk.  Contrary to it's name the Silkoak is not a member of the Oak (Quercus) family, it is a member of the Protea (Proteaceae) family.  The recommended hardiness zones for the Silkoak are 9B through 11, it is not native to North America.  

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

The leaves are light and fern-like arranged alternately.  They are a grey to green in color with an almost silver shade underneath.  In most climates of the hardiness zone the tree is and evergreen, retaining leaves year round.  Generally the tree loses a large amount of leaves in the Spring shortly before the new growth emerges.  The flowers are a very showy bright Yellow-Orange and appear in the Spring - Fall depending on the region/climate.  For example in Hawaii the flowers can appear from March through October but are recorded as most showy during the Month of June. The fruit is black in color, leathery in texture and does not tend to attract wildlife.  The fruit is sometimes considered a nuisance as it falls and litters the ground.  

Image Citation: Dennis Haugen, Bugwood.org

It has been established as a forest tree in some countries and shows promise as a fast-growing timber tree. The Silkoak produces an attractively figured, easily worked wood, which was once a leading face veneer in world trade.  When used as a veneer it is usually marketed as "lacewood".  The wood contains an allergen that causes dermatitis for many people.

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