Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Paulownia family

The Paulownia family consists of  approximately 17 varieties of trees native to North American, China, Laos, Vietnam, Japan and Korea.  Common names for these trees are the Paulownia, Princess Tree, Royal Paulownia, or Empress Tree.  The are prized mostly for their showy clusters of violet flowers in the early spring that grow from panicles that are 3-11 inches long.  The flowers themselves resemble a foxglove flower and many say the Paulownia is part of the Foxglove family while others categorize it as a member of the similarly leaved Catalpa tree.  It has very recognizable large heart shaped leaves that grow on average from 6-18 inches across.  

Image Citation: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Forestry Archive, Bugwood.org

Image Citation: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

This is a fast growing family of trees and when young, can grow up to 20 feet in a single season.  This rapid growth habit makes it sometimes weak and succeptable to limb breakage or loss as it matures.  Taking advantage of this rapid growth rate, some Paulownia plantations are able to harvest lumber in as little as five years. In China the Paulownia is both a popular roadside and ornamental tree.  It's wood is also used to make sound boards for many string instruments throughout Asia.  The lumber is also used in many agro foresty settings as the wood is light but strong. In Japan where it is called the Princess Tree, it was customary to plant a tree to honor the birth of a baby girl and then cut the tree at the time of her marriage to craft a piece of furniture for her new home (often a dresser or chest).  Because of the tight grain this type of wood it is also used to make guitar bodies, skis,  chests, boxes, and traditional wooden clogs.   

Image Citation: Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Bugwood.org

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Table Mountain Pine - Pinus pungens

The Table Mountain Pine, Pinus pungens is a small to mid sized scruffy looking tree that reaches heights of only 50 feet tall.  It has an irregularly shaped crown that is filled with twisted limbs and clusters of barbed cones.  The Table Mountain Pine can generally be found growing above 2500 feet in elevation in only the southern mountains and other higher elevations of the piedmont from New York in the north to Georgia in the south.

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

The bark of the Table Mountain Pine is red brown and furrowed into moderately thin, rounded to flat scaled plates on the lower portion and rough to the touch.  The leaves are in the form of evergreen needles are 1.5 to 3 inches long and grow in bundles of 2 each. Needles are dark green in color, thick and stiff sometimes twisting.  Cones are the easiest way to identify this particular tree, they are short and fat with thick, sharp hooked barbs on the scale ends that resemble a mini - rhinoceros horn.  When viewing a cone from the tip down, there is a visible spiraling pattern.  Some cones are so tightly closed that only the heat from fire is able to open them to release their winged seeds.

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

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Meet The "Horse Chestnut" - Aesculus hippocastanum

The Horse Chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum, is only native to a very small area of Mountains between Greece and Albania- it was not discovered/recorded until 1596.  Once discovered it was rapidly planted and spread almost all over Europe in the early 1600's, then later by the early colonists of North America.  It is a very common street tree from Ontario to Virginia.  In the West it's spread ranges from British Columbia down through New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.  It is one of the more common street trees in the United States and has naturlized in most regions. Growing to heights of 50-75 feet at maturity, this tree can live upwards of 300 years so when planted correctly it can be considered a permanent addition to most landscapes.  It is recommended to be planted in hardiness zones 4-7

The name Horse Chestnut was thought to gain it's origin from the false belief that this tree was part of the Chestnut family, combined with the fact that despite the fruits being poisonous to horses they actually cured some chest related ailments when eaten by sick horses.  

Image Citations (Photos 1 & 2):Norbert Frank, University of West Hungary, Bugwood.org

Although the Horse Chestnut is sometimes confused with the closley related American Buckeye, that name is generally reserved for the North American members of the Aesculus genus.  The Horse Chestnut differs from the American Buckeyes because of it's shiny orange-brown terminal buds, bigger leaves on stalkless leaflets, 1 foot tall heads with predominently white flowers and very prickly husks that enclose the mahogany colored seeds.  Each individual flower opens to reveal a bright splash of yellow at the base of every petal, once pollinated this yellow turns a deeper orange and then finally a crimson red.

Image Citations (Photos 3 & 4) :Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

The flowers provide a rich source of nectar and pollen to insects, especially bees. Caterpillars of the triangle moth and horse chestnut leaf miner moth feed on the leaves. Deer and other mammals eat the conkers.  The most famous use of Horse Chestnut is in the game of conkers. The first record of the game is from the Isle of Wight in 1848.
The wood of the Horse Chestnut is soft and often considered weak.  It has a very straight light colored grain and is often used for wood turning, artificial limb production and wooden toy making.  This weakness can be considered a liability as mature trees in full leaf have been known to drop large branches without warning during heavy storms. 

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Meet the Littleleaf Linden - Tilia cordata

The Littleleaf Linden is found commonly in the United States though it is actually native to Europe.  it is used frequently as a street tree or in park settings throughout the United States. it has a pleasing shape, dense canopy and very fragrant flowers.  At maturity it can reach heights of 50-60 feet tall with a spread of up to 40 feet.  Growing at a medium rate it can grow 12-24 inches in a single year.  It grows best in full sun or partial shade in acidic, alkaline, moist, sandy or clay soils.  It does not do well in extremely wet or dry conditions.

Image Citation: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org

The blooms appear in the summer later in the season when most other trees have finished.  they flowers hang on a long stalk with an attached wing like leaf.  The flowers are a great source of nectar and pollen for bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators.  The fruits are 1/4 inch in diameter.

Image Citation: Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The leaves are heart shaped and lopsided at the base.  Leaf sizes vary from 2-3 inches long with a slightly saw toothed margin.  The color of the leaves range from light green to a deeper glossy green, shifting to yellow in the fall season.

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

The soft wood cavities provide ideal nesting sites for birds that prefer cavity dwelling.  The wood is considered a soft wood and does not have any significant value in the lumber market.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Black Maple - Acer nigrum

The Black Maple - Acer nigrum (also called the Black Sugar Maple, Hard Maple, or Rock Maple) is a medium sized deciduous tree that can reach heights of up to 80 feet tall.  The tree generally has a relatively short trunk with large rounded crown full of long upward reaching branches.  

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

The bark of the Black Maple is black to brown in color with a silver gray layer on top.  The trunk of the Black Maple is often fluted which gives the tree a rougher appearance.  The leaves are simple and grow opposite from one another, as opposed to being side by side.  The lobes are often coarsely toothed before ending in narrow blunted tips.  The upper leaf surface is smooth, dark green in color, wile the lower surface is lighter and duller in finish.  The leaves become yellow to yellow brown in the fall before falling off.  The leaf stalk or petiole is long and often fuzzy. The bodies of the paired fruit are joined at the stem with flat wings hanging down from each side.  

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

The Black Maple is very often confused with the Sugar Maple, with which it freely hybridizes.  Both the Black and Sugar Maple are tapped for Maple Syrup, planted as shade tree and sold in the commercial lumber market as hard Maple.  The Black Maple can be found growing from The Great Lakes in the North to Tennessee in the south.  

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

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The White Spruce - Picea glauca

The White Spruce - Picea glauca, (also Canadian Spruce, Skunk Spruce or Cat Spruce) is a medium to large sized evergreen tree that can reach heights of over 100 feet tall.  White Spruce is a commercially important tree, it wood is light weight, straight grained and resilient.  The lumber of the White Spruce is harvested for both lumber and pulpwood.  Mainly found in Canada it's growth range enters the northern United States from Minnesota through Maine.  

Image Citation: Bill Cook, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

The bark is light brown is thin with a whitish inner layer.  The leaves are in the form of four sided needles, blue green in color with white lines on the bottoms.  The needles appear to grow on top of the branches as they sharply turn upward and wrap around the twigs blending in with the ones growing on the upper surface.  When crushed the needles release a pungent or foul odor. The sticky sap often oozes from the surface.  

Image Citation: Joseph OBrien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The White Spruce is the state tree of South Dakota.  White Spruce is a favorite Christmas tree variety in the North Eastern United States, it is considered to have one of the best "wild" or "natural" appearance.  Though the needles are poorly retained once the tree is cut, the limbs are thick and hold even heavy ornaments very well.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

The Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua

The Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua, is a deciduous tree that reaches heights of up to 132 feet. It is most easily identified by it's palmately lobed, almost star shaped leaves and spiked fruiting balls (which are even called some not so nice names when an unknowing party steps on one). Generally Sweetgums grow in a upright fashion, with a single erect trunk with little branching on the lower 1/2, this is especially true when grown in woodland or forest areas. The Sweetgum is a member of the Altingiaceae family, this family has members in North and Central America, Southeast Asia and Turkey - it includes 2 genera and 13 species, only 1 that is native to the United States. The Sweetgum is also called to as Gum, Gum Ball, Monkey Ball, or Sweet Gum. 

Image Citation: Deena Sharon Chadi, Bank Street College of Education, Bugwood.org

The Sweetgum has grayish or green-gray bark that is finely or moderately fissured. The leaves are alternate and simple, palmate with 5-7 lobes, almost shaped like a star with a more flattened base. The upper portions of the leaves are usually lustrous and green, while the lower surface is more dull and paler in color. The flowers are absent of sepals and petals, the males are greenish-yellow in oblong clusters at the branch tips. Female flowers are paler green, occurring in ball-like dangling clusters. The fruit is made up of numerous capsules that are consolidated into a spiny ball. The balls are generally about 3 cm in diameter with stiff spines forming on the tips. These fruits are generally the biggest complaint when it comes to this species as they can be a hazard on the ground if stepped on or tripped over.

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

The Sweetgum is generally found in rich woods, slopes, fields, residential and urban landscapes, low woods, swamp margins and floodplains. It is native to the United States and can be found as far West as Texas in the South to Southern Illinois in the North continuing to the East Coast New Jersey and Maryland in the North and Central Florida in the South.

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

The American Sycamore also has ball like fruit, however they are not Spiked like the Sweetgum. The Japanese Maples leaves may be confused with the Sweetgum but the fruits are completely different (the Sweetgum having a spiky ball and the Maple having paired samara). The Sweetgum is an important tree to the Eastern landscape. It is recommended for hardiness zones 5-9.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

The Slash Pine - Pinus elliottii

The Slash Pine - Pinus elliottii is a tall, straight, deciduous tree that can reach heights of 60-100 feet on average.  Growing in an upright fashion, Slash Pine generally does not have lower limbs along the trunk but has a dense rounded crown.  It is native to the United States mainly in the South from South Eastern-South Carolina, throughout all of Florida, and along the Gulf Coast through Louisiana.  The Slash Pine is a rapid grower with a desirable form and natural resistance to southern Pine beetles, because of this it is widely planted along the coastal plain for timber production. 

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

The trunk of the Slash Pine is mainly limb free, covered with large, flat, purple-brown bark plates and topped by a dense rounded crown with dark green needles.  The needles are dark green, lustrous, stiff and 6-10 inches long in bundles of two or three.  The needles grow in clusters near the ends of otherwise bare orange-brown branches that resemble brooms.  The seeds are winged and borne in cones that range from 5-8 inches long and grow tilted back towards the trunks. 

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

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Red Spruce - Picea rubens

The Red Spruce - Picea rubens is a small-mid sized tree that can reach 50-80 feet tall. Red Spruce is a long lived tree that can live to be well over 400 years old. Red Spruce can be found growing from Canada in the North through North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia in the South. The branches on the Red Spruce are close in proximity to one another, growing straight out from the trunk and gently sweeping upward near the ends. The wood of Red Spruce is light in color and weight, straight grained, and resilient. This type of lumber is used for making paper, construction lumber, and stringed musical instruments.

Image Citation: Keith Kanoti, Maine Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Red Spruce is moneocious, with male and female flower buds occurring on the same tree but different branches, each year in May. The pendant male flowers are bright red while the female flowers are erect and bright green in color with a hint of purple. The seeds are small and winged, borne in cones. Cones mature from about mid-September to early October, the autumn following flowering. Cones are 1.3 - 1.5 in long, light red-brown, with rigid, rounded scales that are slightly toothed on the edges. Cones are receptive to pollen only when fully open, a condition which lasts briefly for only a few days. The needles are easily identified, they are shiny yellow-green on all sides and point out in all directions very much like porcupine quills. The needles are stiff 3/8 - 5/8 inch long, sharply pointed, four sided and awe shaped.

Image Citation: Georgette Smith, Canadian Forest Service, Bugwood.org

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Meet The " Chinkapin Oak" - (Quercus muehlenbergii)

The Chinkapin (Chinquapin) Oak - Quercus muehlenbergii is a medium to large deciduous tree.  The name Chinkapin originated from the strong resemblance to the Alleghany Chinquapin Castanea pumila (a relative of the American Chestnut).   At full maturity the Chinkapin can reach heights of 70 feet with a broad and rounded crown.   It is a slow to moderate grower that does best in zones 3-9.  Although native to these zones, Chinkapin Oak is sporadic within its range and is seldom a dominant species in a woodland. Its common associates include White, Bur and Black Oaks, Ironwood, Red Cedar and Hickories. Chinkapin Oak prefers well drained soils, bottomlands, limestone ridges, or along stream edges. It is also commonly found on bluffs, ridge tops, and rocky, south facing slopes. 

Image Citation (Photos 1& 2): Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, Bugwood.org 

The leaves are alternate, oval, elliptical, or oblong in shape, 4" to 6" long and 1.5" to 2" wide.  The leaf edges are sharply toothed in almost a serrated fashion.  Male and female flowers appear separately but on the same tree in Spring.  Male flowers borne on a yellowish catkin 3" to 4" long, while the female flowers are less conspicuous and reddish in color. The bark is light gray in color, with short, narrow flakes on the main trunk and limbs, and deep furrows on older trunks.  The wood of the Chinkapin Oak is heavy, hard, strong, and durable.  It is used for making barrels, fencing, fuel, and occasionally for furniture.

Image Citation (Photo 3 & 4): Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Swamp Tupelo - sylvatica var. biflora (AKA Swamp Blackgum)

The Swamp Tupelo - sylvatica var. biflora (AKA Swamp Blackgum), is most often found as a small tree but can reach heights of over 80 feet tall.  The Swamp Tupelo is filled with small branches that grow in almost perfect right angles from the trunk forming an open but unkempt crown.  Mature trees often develop swelling near the base of their trunks.  Bees are often found around Swamp Tupelo as they gather the flower pollen to produce Tupelo Honey which is highly prized.   Their sour fruits are grazed upon by a variety of small mammals and birds.  The soft wood is not commercially important but is sometimes used in local applications where a rot resistant wood is required.  Swamp Tupelo prefers to grow in shallow moving water or swamp lands, and can be found from Maryland in the North through Florida in the South and west through eastern Texas and North along the Mississippi River to Illinois.  

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

The leaves of the Swamp Tupelo are alternate, thick and textured with short leaf stalks.  The leaf blade is 1.5 to 4 inches long and .5 to 1.5 inches wide.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous and green in color, the lower is pale and covered in hairs.  The fruit is purple-black in color, sour in flavor, 1/4-1/2 inch long with a hard seed that has distinct ridges.  The bark is silver-gray in color occasionally almost black in color with rough rectangular chunky plates and crooked furrows. 

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

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Pondcypress - Taxidium ascendens

The Pondcypress - Taxidium ascendens is a very large deciduous tree that can reach heights of over 100 feet and live to be over 500 years old.  It is most commonly found growing in very moist areas, swamps or even shallow ponds.  When growing in water the tree forms knee like structures around the base of the tree, this unique rooting habit makes the tree able to withstands high winds.  The wood of the mature Pondcypress is highly prized for it's rot and termite resistant properties.  When young the tree grows in a conical shape, with age it will begin losing it's lower limbs and the trunk will become deeply fluted.  

Image Citation: David Stephens, Bugwood.org

Pondcypress leaves are in the form of 1/4 inch long needles that are lime green in color and loosely woven around thin soft center twigs that curve slightly out from the main branches.  In the fall the lime green leaves change in color, first to yellow and then to a red-brown before falling off.  To the untrained eye the Pondcypress may appear to be a dead evergreen tree during this time, this is not the case as the Pondcypress is deciduous in nature (meaning it loses it's leaves each fall/winter).  The fruit balls of the Pondcypress are rounded in shape, rough on the surface and silver gray in color.  The fruit balls appear in the Summer and in the Fall open to release their seeds before falling off.  During the Winter season the Pondcypress and Baldcypress appear almost identical and can be easily confused for one another. 

Image Citation: David Stephens, Bugwood.org

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Meet the "Miracle Tree" - Moringa oleifera

Moringa oleifera is the most common of all of the Moringa genus.  The Moringa are the only members of the Moringaceae family.  Moringa oleifera has many common names such as the Miracle Tree (for the high nutrient content and said healing powers), Horseradish Tree (for the root flavor, often compared to horseradish), Drumstick Tree (for the slender seedpods) , Benoil and Benzoil Tree (for the oils derived from the seeds).  

According to tradition in parts of Africa (especially Ghana), the "Miracle Tree" and it's products have been used for generations.  The leaves are extremely high in nutrient value and are said to have natural healing powers.  The seed pods and leaves are eaten as a vegetable in many native areas and are used as an ingredient in herbal medicines.  Not only does the Moringa oleifera's products contain high nutrient values it can also be used for water purification purposes.

Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

This fast growing deciduous tree can reach a height of 32-40 feet with a diameter of just 1.5 feet.  The whitish-grey bark is surrounded by a thick cork.  The young shoots have purplish or greenish-white hairy bark.  The open crown contains drooping, fragile branches and leathery tripinnate leaves.   The fragrant flowers are bisexual and contain five unequal yellow-white petals.  In cooler regions the flowers only appear once a year in April-June, however in warmer regions with high rainfall they can appear twice a year or even year round.  They appear on hairy stalks in spreading clusters that are 10-25 cm long.  The fruit occurs in brown three sided capsules containing dark brown seeds winged seeds that are dispersed by wind and water.  When cultivated as a crop it is cut back annually to allow the pods and leaved to remain within reach.

Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

The Moringa oleifera is the main focus of Moringa Connect, a program that provides registered farmers with seeds and resulting manure for crop expansion and harvesting purposes.  It is also planted as part of the Feed The Future program, Feed The Future is a United States Government Global Hunger & Food Security Initiative that is currently focused in 19 countries.  These programs along with the help of volunteers (including Peace Corp Members, Private and Corporate Sectors) allow areas that are otherwise void of reliable / nutritional food sources to be planted with a resource that will continually produce and reproduce to provide nutritional food for generations to come.  

To learn more about how you can volunteer or donate to these amazing programs (Moringa Connect or Feed The Future) visit  http://moringaconnect.com/  or http://www.feedthefuture.gov/

You can also meet more trees at www.ArundelTreeService.com or Follow Our Blog www.MeetATree.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Lilac Chasetree - Vitex agnus-castus

The Lilac Chasetree - Vitex agnus-castus was originally introduced from Eurasia but has naturalized through the South and Middle to South Eastern United States.  It is found from Southeastern Pennsylvania and Kentucky in the North to Florida and Texas on West through California in the West.  It is distinguished by the combination of palmately compound, 5 parted leaves, and lavender flowers.   It is a deciduous strongly aromatic shrub or small tree that reaches heights of 10-25 feet on average and grows in an erect form.  Generally a single trunk but sometimes found with multiple stems, a rounded crown that is dense in shape.

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

The bark is reddish brown or brown in color, smooth when young becoming finely fissured and scaly with age.  The leaves are opposite, palmately compound, with 3-9 leaflet but usually 5, lanceolate tapering to a sharp tip.  The upper leaf surface is dull green in color and hairless moderately lustrous, the lower surface is grayish green in color.  The flowers are about 1 cm long,  5 petals, lavender, blue or white in color.  The flowers are born in erect terminal clusters that are 12-18 cm long.  The flowers occur in the Summer before the fruit which appears in late summer to early fall. The fruit is round, dry, hard drupe that contains a 4 parted stone.  
Image Citation:  Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

The Vitex - Chasetrees are a family of more then 250 species distributed in mostly tropical or subtropical regions of the world.  Several are grown as ornamental and other are used for lumber production.  Only 4 of the Vitex have naturalized in the East.  There are both deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

The Black Jack Oak - Quercus marilandica

The Black Jack Oak - Quercus marilandica, is a small to mid sized deciduous tree that reaches heights of only 15 - 45 feet tall.  Black Jack Oak often grows in an irregular shape with an open crown and crooked branches.  It is one of the fews Red Oaks that produce and store a substance called tyloses, this substance seals the vessels and make the wood watertight.  The small trees lumber is not highly valuable because of it's small size and knotty qualities it is used for fence posts, wooden water buckets, railroad ties, firewood and charcoal.  Black Jack Oak is native to dry, sandy or soils from Iowa in the West, New Jersey and New York in the North, South through Florida, West through Texas and Northern Nebraska.  

Image Citation: David Stephens, Bugwood.org

The leaves of the Black Jack Oak are tough and leathery, triangular and 4-8 inches long and wide.  The leaf stalk or petiole and lower surface are covered with dense brown-orange hairs.  The veins are raised on both the upper and lower leaf surfaces.  Acorns occur singularly or in pairs on a short stalk with red-brown top shaped cups with hairy scales.  The nuts are elliptic, 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch each, with a stout point.

Image Citation:  Vern Wilkins, Indiana University, Bugwood.org

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Friday, January 6, 2017

American Smoketree - Cotinus obovatus

The American Smoketree - Cotinus obovatus is a small tree that does not reach heights of more then 35 feet tall.  Generally having a short trunk and a full crown with widely spaced branches.  American Smoketree is used on a limited basis as an ornamental and is valued for it's distinctive smoky plumed flowers and dark red fall coloring.  This rare specimen is found growing on rock bluffs and in limestone glades from eastern Tennessee and Northern Alabama west through Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.  

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

The leaves are alternate, egg shaped and are 2-6 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide.  The upper leaf surface is a dull green and the lower surface is lighter and hair covered.  When crushed the leaves give off a distinctive mint odor.  The pink flowers are in the form of hairy fluff that from a distance look to be puffs of smoke, giving the tree it's unique name.   The bark is light gray to gray brown and thin, flaking and peeling up from the bottom edges.  

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Jack Pine -Pinus banksiana

The Jack Pine -Pinus banksiana- is a scruffy small tree that grows 40-70 feet tall.  The trunk of the Jack Pine generally branches out low to the ground, and will often hold lower branches even after the limbs die.  The crown is slender and ragged in form compared to the wider full base.  Jack Pine is commercially harvested for pulpwood lumber and round timbers.  It is usually found growing in pure or mixed stands in relatively dry areas that are generally unsuitable for other trees to thrive.  Jack Pine is considered to be a pioneer species, meaning it is one of the first to appear when mineral soils are exposed by disturbances such as forest fires.

Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org

The bark is thin, scaly and dark gray to reddish brown in color.  The stalkless cones are one of the easiest means of identifying the Jack Pine.  The cones are 1-1.5 inches long and have curved tips near the end of twigs.  The leaves are evergreen needles that are 1.5-2 inches long, dark green to gray green in color.  Most of the cones remain closed on the tree for many years and can only be opened by the heat from forest fires releasing their winged seeds.  

Image Citation: Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Jack Pines are one of the northernmost of all the Pines.  It is recommended for hardiness zones 2a - 7b.  The Jack Pine prefers full sun and is considered to be drought tolerant.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Meet The "Strawberry" Tree - Arbutus unedo

The "Strawberry" Tree - Arbutus unedo, is a small tree in the Ericaceae family, that is native to the Mediterranean Region & Western Europe including Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Eastern Italy, Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Ireland, and Southern France.  It is a large evergreen shrub or small tree only reaching an average height of only 30 feet, with very few found as tall as 50 feet.  It is sometimes called the Cane Apple, Irish or Killarney Strawberry Tree due to it's numbers in Ireland.  

Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Though it's name may lead you to believe otherwise it's fruits are not the Strawberry we all enjoy eating, those come from a common or garden Strawberry; Fragaria × ananassa which grows in a vine or bush form.  The fruit of the Strawberry tree is a red berry, that is rounded and only gets to be about 1–2 cm in diameter.  The surface of the berries are rough in appearance and texture. They mature in about 12 months during the Fall at the same time as the next flowers begin to appear. This fruit is also edible and when red is at it's sweetest.  The fruit is considered to be mealy in texture and boring in flavor by many and is often compared to a fig in flavor.  It can be used to make jams, jellys and liqueurs (Brandy and Riki). The trees are often planted as a Bee Plant for Honey production.  Other wildlife such as birds enjoy eating the small fruits.

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

The leaves are finely toothed and range in size from 2-4 inches long, they are pale green in color below and a glossy dark green above.  The flowers appear in drooping panicles usually containing 10-30 individual flowers each. They are usually white, rarely a pale pink and bell shaped. The flowers are Hermaphroditic meaning they contain both sexual organs required for reproduction.  

It can be grown in hardiness zones 4-9 and requires mild winters to be successful.  It grows best in well-drained soil and is very drought tolerant (prefers dry summers) and is well suited to California's climate.  Propagation can be successfully accomplished by seeds, cuttings, or layering and it can be trained as a large shrub, but it looks much better when grown as a small tree.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

The Blue Ash - Fraxinus quadrangulata

The Blue Ash - Fraxinus quadrangulata is a medium sized deciduous ash tree that is native to the Midwestern portion of the the United States.  It is most commonly found from Oklahoma North through Michigan, into the Bluegrass regions of Kentucky and lower Nashville basin of Tennesee. There are also small isolated populations growing in small areas of the Appalachian Mountians, Alabama and Southern Ontario.  On average the height at maturity can range from 30 - 85 feet depending on the terrain, location and soil type the tree is growing in.  

Image Citation:  Vern Wilkins, Indiana University, Bugwood.org

The twigs of the Blue Ash are unique having four corky ridges that gives them an almost squared appearance when a cross section is cut.  The leaves most often are made up of 7 leaflets and average 7 1/2 - 15 inches long, with individual leaflets  ranging in size from 2 - 5 inches each.  The green leaves are coarsely serrated along the margins with short and distinct petiolules, they become more yellow in the fall.  The small purplish flowers occur in the early spring before the leaves appear.    The fruit is a Samara that is 1-2 inches long and 1/4 to 1/2 inch broad including the attached wing.  

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

The various products of the Blue Ash have many uses.  A blue dye can be extracted from the inner layer of the tree through water immersion.  Pioneers used this dye to color yarn and other textiles used for sewing, crocheting, knitting and weaving.  The wood can be used to make flooring, baseball bats, tool handles, crates and furniture.  The name Blue Ash was also adopted by the City of Blue Ash in Ohio because of the number of trees growing in the area and the great use of the lumber in early buildings throughout the area.
The Blue Ash has not been as greatly impacted by the Emerald Ash Borer as the other North American Ash species.  The beetle has spread throughout most of this trees natural range.  When infestation occurs in an area 60-70% of these trees survive, where other Ash trees may on have a survival rate of 1-2%.  

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