Thursday, June 30, 2016

Meet The "Silverbell" - Halesia

The Silverbell - Halesia is a very small genus of five species of large deciduous shrubs or small trees in the family Styracaceae. It is most commonly found and reaches its greatest size in the Southern Appalachian Mountains where it is called The Mountain Silverbell.  Species of this genus include Mountain-monticola(Snowdrop), Carolina-carolina (Little), Common-tetraptera, Two Winged-diptera, and Chinese-macgregorii (MacGregor's) Silverbell.  This genus is only native to Eastern Asia and Eastern North America, and can be grown in hardiness zones 4-8.  The different species within this genus are sometimes disputed as all being very similar to one another, some researchers say the genus only includes three members while others say four or five.  

Image Citation (Flowers):  Gary Wade, University of Georgia,

This attractive shrub or small tree grows in moist soils, commonly along streams and in the understory of hardwood forests.  It has a moderate growth rate and can lives about 100 years. In tree form it can reach anywhere from 15-65 feet tall.  The leaves are simple and ovate in shape and a medium green during the growing season.  The wood is soft and close grained.  The white bell shaped pendulous flowers and small size make it a desirable tree for landscaping. The flowers are a white or very pale pink, produced in open clusters of 2-6 flowers. The fruit is a distinctive, oblong dry drupe that is 2–4 cm long. All species except for the Two-Winged (Halesia diptera) have four narrow longitudinal ribs or wings on fruit; diptera only has two, making it the most distinctive of the group.The seeds are eaten by squirrels and the flowers provide honey for bees.

Image Citation (Shrub Form): Dow Gardens , Dow Gardens,

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Sandbar Willow - Salix interior

The Sandbar Willow - Salix interior, is most easily identified by it's shrubby, thicket forming growing habit and narrowly linear leaves that are bluish white below.  Sandbar Willow grows as a small tree or large shrub reaching heights of 13-30 feet tall, usually growing in a rounded, dense, shrubby, sprawling fashion with multiple clonal trunks arising from wide spreading surface roots.  Rarely does the Sandbar Willow grow with a single erect trunk.

The leaves are alternate, simple, narrowly linear, with a wedge shaped base.  The upper leaf surface is moderately lustrous and hairy, with a paler lower surface.  The flowers are unisexual, male and female flowers intermixed on the same catkins.  The flowers occur in Spring to Summer, after the new leaves appear.   The fruit is a capsule 4-10 mm long.  

Image Citation:  Richard Webb,

The Sandbar Willow is native with specimens being found growing from 10-1800 m in a triangle shape across the North America.  It can be found as far North as Alaska, British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick,  Maine to Virginia in the East,  Louisiana to Texas in the South and Colorado, Washington and back to Alaska in the West.  It is most commonly found along sandbars, sandy or silty floodplains, lake or pond margins, drainage ditches, distrubed sites and sand hills in the Praries.  

Image Citation:   Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

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Monday, June 27, 2016

The "Striped Maple" - Acer pensylvanicum

The "Striped Maple" - Acer pensylvanicum, (also called Snakebark Maple, Goosefoot, Whistlewood and Moosewood) is the only Snakebark Maple that grows naturally outside of Eastern Asia. It is a small to medium deciduous tree, reaching an average of only 15-25 feet at full maturity. Mainly found growing in shrubby form in the forest understory it is usually not found in residential/commercial landscapes. It is native to moist rocky forest areas along the Appalachian Mountains, North Eastern United States and Eastern Canada.

Image Citation (Photo 1): Rob Routledge, Sault College, - 
Photo Location: Thielman Road, Goulais River, Ontario, Canada

The leaves are bright green in color during the growing season and triple lobed. In the Fall the leaves change to a pale yellow and tend to fall earlier then other decidous trees in the same area. The bark is green with white stripes when young, the green darkens to a reddish brown when mature. The small yellow-green flowers bloom in pendulous form, appearing on 6 inch long racemes, each flower within the group is usually only about 1/3 of an inch. These flowers appear in the Spring (usually May depending on the area).

Image Citation:Photos 2&3 :Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, - 
Photo Locations: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

There is a relatively low maintenance tree recommended for zones 3-7. There are no serious insect or disease problems that effect only this variety. It prefers shady areas (forest understory), can tolerate heavy shade and if planted in full sun locations may show signs of scortch on the leaves. Potential diseases include verticillium wilt, leaf spots, tar spot, canker and root rot. Potential insects include aphids, scale, borers, mites and caterpillars.

The various names given to this tree are many and each has it's own "story" behind it.

Striped or Snakebark Maple from it's unusual and appealing bark, which is greenish in color when young and marked with white striped (generally vertically). Stripes may vanish over time as the older bark turns reddish brown and the white begins to darken or fade.

Goosefoot Maple - the broad leaves that are triple lobed and often compared to a goose foot in shape.

Moosewood - Moose and white tailed deer often browse the leaves and young twigs hence the name Moosewood.

Whistlewood - Whistles can easily be carved from branch sections, hence the common name of whistlewood.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

The American Basswood - Tilia americana

The American Basswood - Tilia americana, is most easily recognized by the combination of alternate, two ranked, and heart shaped leaves that are asymmetric at the base and the leafy bract subtending the flowers and fruit.  It is a deciduous tree that reaches heights of 60-100 feet tall that grows in an erect form with a single trunk.  The crown of the American Basswood is ovoid or rounded with numerous slender branches.  

Image Citation: Vern Wilkins, Indiana University,

The bark of the American Basswood is smooth and dark gray when young, becoming furrowed with vertical ridges.  The leaves are alternate, simple, 2 ranked, ovate, heart shaped and ovate at the base.  The upper surface of the leaves are a dark yellowish green, hairless with conspicuous veins, while the lower leaf surface is a paler green color and lightly haired.  The blades of the leaves are 12-15 cm long and 7-10 cm wide.  The flowers are yellowish white with 5 sepals, 5 petals and inflorescence.  The fruit is a rounded thick-shelled gray nut that is about 6 mm broad, maturing in Autumn.  

Image Citation: Wendy VanDyk Evans,

The American Basswood is native to the rich and deciduous woods of North America, it is widespread in the East from New Brunswick and Saskatchewan in the North to Central Florida and Texas in the South.  

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Meet the "Atlantic White Cedar" - Chamaecyparis thyoides

The Atlantic White Cedar - Chamaecyparis thyoides is a small cedar with irregular rounded cones.  It is also known regionally as the Post Cedar or the Swamp Cedar.  It is a member of the Cupressaceae (Cypress) Family.  A monoecious evergreen tree that grows to up to 120 feet tall on rare occasions but averages 40-60 feet tall.  It generally appears with a single straight trunk and spire shaped crown.  The tree mostly occurs in bogs and swamps or in highly acidic soils, they also form pure stands within forests dominated by other species.  It appears naturally along the Atlantic coastal plain from Maine to South Carolina and along the Gulf Coast Plain from Florida to Mississippi. 

Image Citation: Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia,

The bark is flaky at first becoming a red-brown with age, often furrowing into long spirals with thin peeling strips.  The branches become fan shaped sprays with age that are flattened.   The leaves are scale like and slightly overlapping often with a small rounded resin gland, the stomata form a white X on the lower surface.  The seeds appear in cones, they are rounded but generally not symmetrical.  When mature the cones are relatively small only 4-9 mm wide and long.  They are either bluish-purple to reddish-brown, glaucous, not very resinous and made up of 6-8 woody scales. The cones mature and open within 1 year, within the cones the seeds occur 1-2 per scale and are 2-3 mm long with a narrow wing.  It is monoecious, but the staminate and pistillate flowers are produced on separate shoots.  The flowers appear in the summer but are so small they often are unnoticed by the untrained eye, they remain on the tree untill late fall or early winter.
Image Citation: Keith Kanoti, Maine Forest Service,

The Atlantic White Cedar has become a very popular ornamental, with over thirty cultivars on the market today. The climate throughout most of the range of Atlantic White Cedar is classed as humid but varies widely in all other aspects. It is recommended for hardiness zones 3a-8b.  Average annual precipitation needed is 40 to 64 in and is best distributed throughout the year. The frost-free season required for optimum growth is 140 to 305 days. Temperature extremes range from -36° F during Maine's winter to highs of over 100° F during the Summer seasons in the Southern range.  It is often times confused with other similar appearance trees such as the Arborvitae (Thuja occidentolis) which also has branches forming fan like sprays and the Port Oxford Cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) an ornamental found commonly in the East.  The wood is very light and decay resistant but has not been logged heavily since the 20th century. 

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Monday, June 20, 2016

The Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

The Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), is most easily recognized by the spicy aromatic leaves that increase in size from the base to the tip of the twig. It is a small deciduous shrub or small tree to reaches only 16 feet tall. It grows in erect form with a single trunk and open crown. When bruised or damaged the plant is quite aromatic.

Image Citation: Vern Wilkins, Indiana University,

The leaves are alternate, simple, thin, aromatic (when crushed), with hairy upper surfaces and a dark green color. The flowers are yellow, tiny and borne in several-flowered clusters with the male and female flowers occurring on separate plants in the Spring prior to leaf expansion. The fruit is an ellipsoid, bright red drupe, 8-10 mm long and maturing in the Fall. The bark is gray, becoming darker with age.

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

It is native to the United States from Ontario and Southern Maine to Florida in the East and Michigan and Texas in the West. It is found primarily along stream banks, moist woodlands, wetland margins from 0-1200 m.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

The Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis

The Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis, is also called Sharinga Tree, Rubberwood or Para Rubber Tree.  It was only originally found growing in the Amazon Rainforest but was planted in more widespread tropical and sub-tropical areas once the demand for it's naturally produced rubber increased.  This tree is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family and has major economic value because of it's milky latex that naturally occurs within the tree.  Recorded uses of this and similar tree rubber/latex products date back to the Olmec people of Mesoamerica some 3600 years ago.  By the late 1800's rubber plantations were established in the British colonies, Java, and Malaya.  Today most rubber plantations outside of the native region occur in tropical portions of South/East Asia and West Africa. Cultivating in South America has not been satisfactory because of leaf blight this leaf blight is a major concern for plantations worldwide as it has not been cured or corrected and is thought to pose a threat to all varieties/clones growing today.

Image Citation: David Cappaert, Michigan State University,

This latex that occurs in the Rubber Tree is the primary source of natural rubber, it occurs in vessels within the bark just outside of the phloem. The vessels spirals up and around the tree in a right handed helix pattern forming an angle of about 30 degrees and occurring at heights of up to 45 feet.  In the wild the tree has been found to reach heights upwards of 100 feet, but this is not very common.  Trees grow at a much slower rate once they are tapped for latex and are generally cut down after about thirty years as they usually stop producing at this point so they no longer have economical value.  When harvesting cuts are made in the vessels but only deep enough to tap into them without harming the trees growth.  In order to grow these trees require tropical or sub-tropical climates, with no chance of frost.  One simple frost event can completely wipe out a plantation and be detrimental to production as the rubber becomes brittle and breaks.  Latex production is not very reliable the amount and quality is variable from tree to tree. When a tree is tapped (the process is called rubber tapping) the latex is collected in small buckets and looks almost similar to the process used to collect syrup from Maple trees.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Solanum : Nightshade Genus (Including Potato and Tomato)

In the family Solanaceae (Nightshade Family) there is a genus called Solanum it contains 1500-2000 varieties of herbs, shrubs and trees. Of these varieties two are major food crops in North America, Potato and Tomato and another less Popular including Eggplant. In other regions there are varieties such as the Ethiopian eggplant, Gilo (S. aethiopicum), Naranjilla or Lulo (S. quitoense), Turkey Berry (S. torvum), Pepino (S. muricatum), Tamarillo and Bush Tomatoes (which includes several Australian species). Most of the members of this family are native to the American Tropics, 65 occur in North America (only 35 are native). Even though two of our largest food crops are included in this genus most of the green parts of the plants and unripened fruits are poisonous, but some bear edible parts in the form of fruit, leaves or tubers. Also included in this genus are Nightshades, Horse Nettles and many other plants cultivated for their ornamental flowers and fruits. The species grows in various habits including annual, perennial, vine, subshrub, shrub and even small trees.

Image Citation: Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University, - Subject: Buffalobur (Solanum rostratum) Dunal
Image Citation:  Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,  - Subject: Bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) L.

Most of the plants have green simply shape leaves that are ovate or elliptic. Flowers can range in color depending on the variety but generally have 5 petals. The fruits can vary from small and insignificant to large and very visable - berries, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. Some produce fruit from the leaves while other grow underground (like the potato). Many plants in the Solanum genus are an important food source for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species (Butterflies and Moths), these include various Angle shades (Phlogophora meticulosa), various members of the Bedellia species, the Cabbage Moth (Mamestra brassicae), Common swift (Korscheltellus lupulina), Garden dart (Euxoa nigricans), Ghost moth (Hepialus humuli), Tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta), Tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata), and Turnip moth (Agrotis segetum) to name a few.

Image Citation: J. Jeffrey Mullahey, University of Florida, Subject: Tropical Soda Apple (Solanum viarum) Dunal

Food Crop production in the Solanum genus is extremely important throughout the world. In 2013, the recorded world production of Tomatoes was 163.4 million tonnes, with China producing 31% of the total, followed by India, the United States and Turkey. In 2012, Tomato production was estimated to be valued at 59 billion dollars, making it the eighth most valuable agricultural product worldwide. In 2013, the recorded world production of Potatoes was 368 million tonnes. Two thirds of the global production is eaten by humans, the remaining third is consumed by animals or used in starch production. Potatoes remains an essential crop in Europe, where per capita production remains the highest in the world. The most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. As of 2007, China led the world potato production, and nearly a third of the world's potatoes were harvested between China and India. It is believed that the geographic shift in potato production has been moved from wealthier countries toward low income areas of the world because it is a cheap and plentiful crop that is able to grow in wide varieties of climates and locales. Only about 5% of the world's Potato crop are traded internationally because of the perishability. In 2013, the recorded world production of Eggplants was 49.4 million tonnes, 57% of which came from China, 27% from India, Iran, Egypt and Turkey were also major producers all total account for 97% of the world production. More than 4,000,000 acres are devoted to the cultivation of eggplants in the world.

Image Citation: John Cardina, The Ohio State University, - Subject: Bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) L.
Image Citation: Keith Weller, USDA Agricultural Research Service, - Subject: Potato (Solanum tuberosum) L.
Image Citation: Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural Research Service, - Subject: Potato (Solanum tuberosum) L.

Many members of the Solanaceae:Nightshade family members can be grown in your own landscape some in your vegetable garden and others in you flower gardens. With 1500-2000 varieties and counting I am sure you can find one that is right for you! Hardiness zones vary by plant and within the family can range from zones 4-12.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Meet The "Ginkgo Biloba" Tree - (Ginkgo biloba)

The Ginkgo Tree - Ginkgo Biloba - is the survivor of all arboreal survivors. There were Ginkgo trees when dinosaurs walked the Earth. The sole remnant of a group of plants even more primitive than Conifers. It is a living fossil, and fossils relating to the modern Ginkgos dating back 270 million years. They were wiped out completely in North America by the Glaciers,and thought to at one time be extinct in the wild the world over. They however thrived in China where the Buddhist monks tended to them in their gardens. When growing in the wild , they are found infrequently in deciduous forests and valleys with fine silty soil. It has long been cultivated in China and is now common in the southern third of that country. They were exported to England in 1754 and to the U.S. about 30 years later, cultivated in both countries for over 200 years it has failed to become significantly naturalized in either.

Ginkgos are also known as Maiden Hair trees, and sometimes referred to by a variation in spelling on the name -Gingko/Gingo/Ginko. They grow to be very tall, they average between 60-100ft, with some specimens in China reaching over 160 ft tall. The tree has an angular crown and long, somewhat erratic branches. This tree is deep rooted which makes it tolerant to wind and snow damage. They grow best in moist soil, but are known to be very tolerant. Young specimens are often tall, slender, and sparcely branched, but with age the crown broadens. In the fall the leaves will turn a bright yellow before they fall often within as short a span as 15 days. Their combination of disease resistance, insect resistant wood, and their ability to form aerial roots/sprouts make them very longed lived. Some specimens in China are claimed to be over 2500 years old.

Being Dioecious, Ginkgos are either male or female. Males produce small pollen cones. Females do not produce cones, instead two ovules are formed at the end of a stalk and after pollenation one or both develop into seeds. The seed is 1-2 cm long, the outer layer is a yellowy brown flesh that is soft and fruit-like. It is attractive in appearance but contains butanoic acid (or butyric acid). The males are generally preferred in urban landscapes because the fruits from the females tend to be messy when they fall onto sidewalks and have a peculiar odor from the butanoic acid (often compared to a strong cheese). The kernel/seed (or Silver Nut) inside the fruit is considered a delicacy in the Orient. The fertilization of a Ginkgo occurs via motile sperm (as in Cycads, ferns, or moss), the sperm have a very complex structure. They adapt well in urban enviroments, tolerating pollution as well as confined soil space, for this reason as well as just being a beautiful tree they are often planted in streetside setting.

Used in both culinary and medicinal settings, the Ginkgo is thought by some to have health benefits and is also considered by others to be an aphrodisiac. However when eaten in large quantities for a number of years (especially by children) the meat of the seed can cause poisoning. Others are sensitive to the chemical in the outer fleshy part of the fruit, having symptoms similar to poison ivy. The extract of Ginkgo leaves contains flavonoid glycosides and terpenoids and have been used pharmaceutically. Medical trials have shown Ginkgo to be moderately effective in improving symptons in dementia patients, but not in preventing the onset of Alzhemiers disease in the average person. Used primarily as a memory and concentration enhancer, and anti-vertigo agent, even though some studies differ in results about its effectiveness. Ginkgos are truely an amazing species of tree all on their own, surviving and adapting for hundred of millions of years.

Image Citations (Photos 1-4) : Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration,

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Meet The Sourwood Tree - Oxydendrum arboreum

The "Sourwood" Tree - Oxydendrum arboreum is very unique as it is the only species in it's genus. This genus is a part of the larger Ericaceae Family, which is commonly called the Heath or Heather Family. The Ericaceae family is made up of a very diverse group of plants including Heathers, Azaleas, Rhodedendrons and Madrones.

Image Citation: Richard Webb, Self-employed horticulurist, 

The Sourwood has grey bark with deep lobes that almost make the bark appear chunky. The leaves are very finely toothed and a smooth grey-green in color during the growth season and a bright red, crimson or even purple in the fall. The leaves are arranged alternately and average 3-8 inches long. The flowers are white or ivory in color and bell shaped, they are very small only 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch each. The flowers though small on their own grow on 6-10 inch long panicles. The fruit are small downy, five sided/angled woody capsules that are ivory in color. The roots of the Sourwood are considered shallow, this tree grows best with little to no root competition. It prefers very acidic soil and will not tolerate . The wood of the Sourwood is heavy, hard and close grained. This type wood takes well to high gloss finish. Honey produced from the flowers of this tree is considered by many to be unmatched by clover, orange blossom, or any other honey.

Image Citation: Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.), 

It is native to Eastern United States, ranging in the North from Pennsylvania and in the South from Western Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Northwest Florida. It is found most commonly in the lower chain of the Appalachian Mountain. Recommended for hardiness zones 5-9, this tree is a medium sized deciduous tree that makes for a lovely ornamental addition to any landscape. With a maximum height of 35-70 feet and a spread of 20 feet it's size allows it to fit in places where some other shade trees will not.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

The Scarlet Oak - Quercus coccinea

The Scarlet Oak - Quercus coccinea is most easily identified by it's deply cut leaves in combination with 1 or more pitted rings at the acorn apex. It is a fast growing deciduous tree that can reach heights of 100 feet tall. Generally growing in an upright fashion with a single erect trunk that is more often then not swollen at the base. The crown of the Scarlet Oak is rounded and open with spreading branches. It is native to the Eastern and Mid Atlantic regions of the United States from Maine in the North to Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama in the South, spreading as far West as Wisconsin. It is closely related to the Northern Pin Oak - Quercus ellipsoidalis, Shumard Oak - Quercus shumardii, Northern Red Oak -Quercus rubra and Pin Oak - Quercus palustris. The Scarlet Oak has alternate simply shaped leaves with 5-7 lobes each that range in size from 4-7 inches long. Leaves are bright green in the Spring and Summer and change to a brilliant Scarlet - Red in the Fall. The upper surfaces of the leaves are lustrous and hairless, while the lower is paler with tufts of hair in many of the vein axils. The fruit is a bowl shaped cupped acorn that is 7-15 mm deep enclosing 1/3 - 1/2 of the brown nut. Acorn crops are produced annually, however large crops are only seen every 3-5 years.The bark is thin, brown to dark gray in color, finely ridged and furrowed in texture.

Image Citation: (Fall Foliage) T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University,

The Scarlet Oak is often planted for a combination of it's rapid growth, beautiful foliage, soil tolerance, wind resistance and upright habit. It makes for a lovely focal point in any landscape. Scarlet Oak prefers well drained slopes, dry uplands, ridges, and even does well in poor soils (except akaline). Full sun is recommended for best performance (6 hours of direct sunlight daily). The best performance for the Scarlet Oak naturally seems to be in the Ohio River Valley where specimens are many in number, long lived and lovely in shape. It also is a very successful part of the South Appalachian forest story. Scarlet Oak is recommended for hardiness zones 4-9 and can be found at most larger nurseries. It is widely used in park settings, along roadside and in residential and commercial landscape design. The Scarlet Oak is the official tree for The District of Columbia. Scarlet Oak acorns are an important food source various types of wildlife including, songbirds, wild turkeys, grouse, squirrels and white-tailed deer.

Image Citation: (Acorns) David Stephens,
Image Citation: (Canopy from below) David Stephens,

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Bear Oak - Quercus ilicifolia

The Bear Oak-Quercus ilicifolia is a small deciduous tree that is most easily identified by it's love of rocky habitat and leaves with a hairy lower surface. It grows in a small tree or gangly shrub form with a densely rounded crown. It does not exceed 40 feet tall but only averages around 15-20 feet tall and generally has one or more short contorted trunks.

Range map/Image Citation: By Elbert L. Little, Jr., USGS - USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center: Digital Representations of Tree Species Range Maps from "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. (and other publications), Public Domain,

The leaves are Alternate, simple, ovate or elliptic with a wedge shaped base and shallow margins. The upper leaf surface is dark green and slightly lustrous while the lowers are paler and visibly hairy. The fall leaf coloring starts as a yellow green but changes to a lovely yellow with the season. The fruit is an acorn, with a cup that is 10-17 mm deep enclosing 1/4 to 1/2 of the nut. The nut of the acorn is egg shaped with very faint vertical striping. Acorns are often produced in large abundant crops, probably as a result of the harsh conditions that the tree grows in. Bear Oak is monoecious, with both male and female flowers being found on the same plant.  Male flowers are catkins and female flowers are borne in clusters or singly, the female flowers are produced on current-year's growth

Image Citation: Will Cook, 2010-

The Bear Oak is native to the North Eastern United States and can be found from Ontario to Main in the North and West Virginia to Virginia in the South.  Bear Oak can be found growing in CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, VT, VA, and WV. It prefers dry soils, mountainous terrain and rocky outcroppings. Individual above ground trunks or stems of the Bear Oak are not long living. Maturing to only about 20 years of age, they arise from one single long lived taproot that can be as thick as 20 cm in diameter and reach as deep down in the ground as 3 feet.  The Bear Oak is adapt to hybridizing with various members of the Red Oak family.  The Bear Oak species is considered threatened in North Carolina and is on the Endangered list in Vermont.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Common Pricklyash - Zanthoxylum americanum

The Common Pricklyash - Zanthoxylum americanum or the Toothache Tree as it is also called. Is best recognized by the combination of alternate pinnate leaves with paired prickles, and occasional paired prickles at the leaflet nodes and clusters of greenish yellow flowers. It is a small deciduous, thicket forming, slender tree that usually only reaches heights of 20-35 feet tall. It is native to the Northeastern, Central and Mid-Atlantic United States with occasional specimens found as far South as Florida. It prefers moist or dry woodlands and rich soils from 0-600 m, it is widespread in the East.

Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

The leaves are alternately pinnate with blades that are 15-20 cm long, petioles that are 3-6 cm long and 5-11 leaflets each. The upper leave surface is a medium to dark green that is lustrous in sheen, while the lower surface is paler and hairy. The flower of the Common Pricklyash is unisex or bisexual with the male and female generally occurring on different plants. Each flower contains 4-5 green to yellow petals with fringed tips and 2-5 pistils that are produced in small axillary clusters in the Spring-Summer season. The fruit is a fleshy brown pod with 1-2 shiny black seeds each, the fruit matures.

Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

The Hercules club is considered to be the most similar species to the Common Pricklyash, though it's prickles are more stout and irregularly scattered, they are similar in appearance and often confused for one another by the untrained eye.
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Monday, June 6, 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Kousa Dogwood-Cornus kousa

The Kousa Dogwood-Cornus kousa, is a small tree that ranges in height from 20 to 30 feet tall when mature.  It grows in an erect form with a single short trunk and low hanging branches that often reach to the ground, the crown is round and broad, usually as wide as it is tall.  The Kousa Dogwood was originally introduced from Asia but is now widely cultivated in the Eastern portions of the United States as far West as Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas.  It is most easily recognized by the combination of opposite leaves, flower clusters that are long, rounded, pointed near the tips, and creamy white in color.  

Image Citation (Photo 1 & 2): Richard Webb,

The bark of the Kousa Dogwood is smooth and a uniform gray when young, as they mature the bark begins to exfoliate and become mottled with shades of gray, copper and olive green.  The leaves are opposite, simple, ovate or elliptic with a long tapered tip.  The upper surface of the leaves is dark green and lustrous while the lower surface is a paler green.  In the fall the leaves turn a bright red, orange or purple color.  The flowers are green-yellow borne in compact clusters that are surrounded by 4 large, long pointed, white bracts that can be as long as 5cm.  Blooms appear in late May-June annually.  The fruit is a cluster of small drupes that are fused into a knobby raspberry like form that is usually abut 2.5 cm in diameter, they are red to red-orange in color and mature in late Summer to early Fall annually.

Image Citation (Photo 3-Fall Foliage): T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University,

Kousa Dogwood's can be found at most local nurseries and make a lovely addition to any commercial or residential landscape.  They are recommended for hardiness zones 5-8.  They prefer average moisture levels but are also somewhat drought resistant.  They perform best in full sun to partial shade and can tolerate acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well drained and clay soils. 

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Inkwood - Exothea paniculata

The Inkwood - Exothea paniculata also called Butterbough is an evergreen shrub or small tree that reaches heights of up to 50 feet in height. It is most easily identified by it's compound leaves with 4 leaflets. It grows in an erect, upright form with a single trunk and narrowly rounded crown.

(Photo By: Michelle M. Smith, 2018 - In habitat, Ned Glenn Nature Preserve, Florida)

When young the bark is bright, reddish-brown becoming dark gray and fissured with age. The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound with an even number of leaflets, 2-6 in number but usually 4. Each leaflet is elliptic or oblong in shape with a rounded tip and slight notching. The upper surface of the leaves are lustrous and dark green in color, while the lower is a paler green. The flowers are unisex and white with the male and female occurring on separate plants. The flowers contain 5 petals, 5 sepals and generally 8 stamen and occur from late winter to early spring. The fruit is a fleshy berry that is red when young becoming purple or almost black when mature. Fruit reaches maturity annually in Summer.

The Inkwood is native to only the the very southernmost portion of Florida and the Florida Keys. It prefers hammocks and shell mounds. It is a member of the Exothea genus whihc contains only 3 species all but 1 are native to the Carribean, the Inkwood is the only member native to the United States.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Sweetbay Magnolia - Magnolia virginiana

The "Sweetbay Magnolia" - Magnolia virginiana - is native to the Eastern/Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions of the United States, with it's highest "natural" numbers occuring in the South Eastern States of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. It grows naturally most commonly in poorly drained or highly acidic soils that are often subject to flooding. This tree has a vase shaped growth habit and generally reaches 10-20 feet tal at maturity. It is considered a medium to fast grower, gaining an average of 12-24 inches per year when young.
Image Citation: Richard Webb, 

Though it is not as showy as it's counterparts (the more commonly planted ornamental Magnolia's) it offers great interest from May - Late June when it is in bloom. After the initial bloom, some flowers will often continue to sporadically appear late into the summer season, disappearing before the first frost. The blooms are a creamy white in color, highly fragrant and 2-3 inches in diameter. The scent of the flowers is often compared to a light lemon or citrus scent. When the flowers disappear the "fruit" appears in the form of red-orange cones often growing in clusters. This fruit is eaten by a wide variety of animals including Squirrels, Mice, Turkey, Quail and many Songbirds.

Image Citation: Charles T. Bryson, USDA Agricultural Research Service, 

The leaves are simple oval shape with a slight point at each end (lanceolate). They are a glossy dark green in color with a lighter silvery underside. In some areas of the United States, the leaves are retained throughout the year, because of this it is considered to be semi-evergreen.

Image Citation: Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.), 

The Sweetbay Magnolia is hardy in USDA zones 5-9. Some cultivars found at local nurseries may include the Southern (australis), Henry Hicks, and Moonglow.

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