Friday, March 30, 2018

The American Beech - Fagus grandifolia

The American Beech - Fagus grandifolia can be most easily identified by the combination of smooth gray to almost blue gray bark, coarsely toothed leaves and elongated torpedo shaped buds. It is a deciduous tree that can reach heights of near 100 feet if given the right location and ideal growing conditions. Generally growing in an erect upright fashion with a single main trunk and broad open crown. Native to rich woodlands, moist slopes and deciduous forests the American Beech can be found growing from New Brunswick and Ontario in the North South through Texas and Florida between 0-1250 m. It is believed that the best specimens are found growing in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys where growing conditions are ideal.

Image Citation (Beech from below): David Stephens,
Image Citation (Trunk of Mature Beech): Richard Webb,

Image Citation (Close up of Leaves): Rob Routledge, Sault College,

Even without leaves the bark of the American Beech sets it aside and makes it easy to identify, smooth in texture and gray to almost blue gray in color it is a stark contrast to the Oak and Pines generally found growing nearby. With age this smooth bark tends to darken and develop cankers or molten in appearance. The leaves are equally interesting, simply shaped ovate or elliptic they are coarsely toothed on the edges. The upper leaf surface is lustrous and dark green in color, while the lower surface is paler and hairy. In the fall the leaves begin to shift from green to yellow, then a lustrous brown and finally a pale brown before falling and making room for new leaves in the Spring. The flowers are tiny, the males are borne in a globular head at the end of a silky stalk, the female are inconspicuous borne singly or in pairs. The fruit is a bristly 4 compartment cupule that usually contains 2 angled or ridged nuts (occasionally 1 or 3).

Image Citation (close up of bark): Wendy VanDyk Evans,
Image Citation (Fall Foliage):T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University,

The American Beech is readily available at most nurseries within hardiness zones 4-9, it is a slow grower and can be planted as both a shade tree and an ornamental. Full sun is ideal for the American Beech - meaning it should get at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day. Be sure when planted that there is ample space available as when full grown the American Beech can reach heights of 100 feet tall with a spread of 40-50 feet. Beechnuts are frequently eaten by birds and small mammals, they serve as an important food for both chipmunks and squirrels.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Eastern Redbud - Cercis canadensis

The Eastern Redbud - Cercis canadensis, is most easily recognized by the combination of Magenta flowers, flattened legumes and heart shaped leaves. It is a deciduous tree that ranges in height from 25-45 feet tall. Growing in an erect from with a single trunk, low branches and a rounded crown. It is native throughout the East from Ontario, New York and Massachusetts in the North and Central Florida to Texas in the South. It prefers moist or dry woodlands, sloped area and roadsides.

Image Citation: Carl Dennis, Auburn University,

The Eastern Redbud is easy to identify by it's flowers, leaves, legumes and bark. The bark is gray-brown in color and mostly smooth. The leaves are alternate, simple, unifoliolate, heart shaped or abruptly pointed. The leaves are dull in sheen, medium to dark green in color, hairless, and paler in color on the lower surfaces. The flowers are bi-sexual 10-12 mm long, 5 sepals, 5 petals, 10 stamens, light to dark pink or magenta in color appearing in Spring prior to the new leaves. The fruit is a flattened and oblong legume that is 6-10 cm long and appears in late Summer to Autumn.

Image Citation: Margaret Pooler,
Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

Cercis is a small genus of only 8 species, 2 of which are native to North America and most are often low branching. The Eastern Redbud is most often used as an ornamental and is often planted in combination with the Flowering Dogwood. The Eastern Redbud is recommended for hardiness zones 4-9. This tree is considered both a flowering tree and an ornamental tree and is planted for both reasons. It is typically planted for both its visual interest and beautiful showing of Spring flowers.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Sugar Maple - Acer saccharum

The Sugar Maple - Acer saccharum (also called Hard Maple, or Rock Maple in certain regions) is a deciduous tree that is well known for it's lovely vibrant fall coloring, large size, larger leaves and winged fruit. Growing in an upright erect form, generally with one single trunk, the Sugar Maple makes for a lovely focal point in any setting. It is Native to much of the Eastern portion of North America from Nova Scotia, Ontario and North Dakota, South from Georgia, Northern Alabama, Northern Louisiana, and Eastern Oklahoma. It slightly overlaps the Southern Sugar Maple in range in the Southern most growth areas only (LA, GA, & AL). The Sugar Maple is a slow growing, long lived tree with specimens recorded as old as 400 years. Commonly found as a tree of importance in various Eastern Forest types including, Hemlock/Northern hardwoods, Beech/Sugar Maple, Sugar Maple/Basswood, Cherry/Maple, and Red Spruce/Sugar Maple.

Image Citation (Fall Coloring) Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,

Image Citation: Jason Sharman, Vitalitree,

The bark of the Sugar Maple is smooth and Gray when young, becoming irregularly furrowed, scaled and darker with maturity. The leaves are opposite, simple, thin, firm and broader then they are long. Upper leaf surfaces are a dark yellow/green in color, palmately veined with a paler yellow/green or whitened underside. Leaf blades range in size from 7-20 cm long and broad. In the fall the leaves turn a brilliant Red, Yellow or Orange in color.  The flowers of the Sugar Maple are tiny they contain 5 sepals that are green/yellow in color, occurring in clusters near the leaf axil in Mid-Late Spring on thin/long drooping stems. The fruit occurs in early Fall in the form of paired samaras that are 2-3 cm long, the pair of samaras almost always forms a U shape where connected.

Image Citation (Flowers) Joseph Berger,

Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia,

The Sugar Maple is a very popular tree and can be found at almost any nursery in hardiness zones 3-8. It can be grown as both a shade tree and an ornamental, be careful when planting this tree as although it is a slow grower it will get very large with age 65-75 feet tall and 40-50 feet broad (canopy). The Sugar Maple prefers partial shade or full sun and deep, well-drained, acidic to slightly alkaline soil. Sugar Maple also has a moderate drought tolerance. Sugar Maples are commonly browsed upon by Whitetail Deer, Squirrels, Moose and Snowshoe Hares. Sugar Maple is the Official State tree of New York, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Vermont (more states than any other tree).

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Monday, March 26, 2018

The Pin Oak - Quercus palustris

The Pin Oak - Quercus palustris is a large deciduous tree that has been recorded as present in the United States since at least 1770.   It is most commonly planted along highways, parking lots, open spaces as well as in ornamental in landscapes as a specimen tree.  The Pin Oak generally has a single erect trunk,  and thin pin like twigs.  It's lower branches if left natural can often sweep the ground,  the middle branches grow in a more horizontal fashion, while the uppers are horizontal then ascending in the upper crown.  The Pin Oak when mature has an almost symmetrical, conical or cylindrical appearance.

Image Citation: David Stephens,

A rapid grower, Pin Oak is one of the fastest growing Oaks.  This species can grow on average 12-15 feet in a window of just 5-7 years.  In the Spring the foliage is a dark green color, shifting to russet-bronze and red in the Autumn.  The leaves  are alternate, have 5-7 deep narrow primary lobes, each containing a few bristle like teeth/tips.  They are a lustrous dark yellowy green on the surface, changing to a bright scarlet red in the Fall.  The bark is Grayish brown with small ridges, that over time become more furrowed.  The twigs are slender and a lustrous reddish brown color.  The terminal buds are also a reddish brown color ranging from 2-5 mm long, egg shaped, and pointed on the tip.  The fruit is an acorn, with a shallow cup that is 3-6 mm deep which encloses only about 1/4 of the nut.

Image Citation: Richard Webb,

It grows well in zones 4-9 and is one of the most commonly used native Oaks for landscape purposes. This tree tolerates wet soils and prefers moist rich soil, but does have a sensitivity to high PH. The flowers are similar to those on a Red Oak, acorns that are nearly round and brown when ripe.  The Pin Oak is readily available at most nurseries and would make a beautiful sturdy addition to any landscape.  It is found native in lowland woods, river bottomlands, swamp margins, poorly drained uplands, normally found naturally between 500-1000 meters, also widely planted as a street and yard tree above 1000 meters.  Generally found from Massachusetts and New York in the North, Virginia, small portions of North Carolina and Tennessee in the South on West through Kansas and Oklahoma.  

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Mahaleb Cherry - Prunus Mahaleb

The Mahaleb Cherry - Prunus Mahaleb, is the only Cherry that grows in the Eastern portion of North America with primarily rounded or circular leaves.  It is a small deciduous tree that only reaches heights of 25-35 feet tall.  It was originally introduced from Eurasia and has become naturalized along roadsides, fields and vacant lots from 0-1000 m.  Found in the Eastern portion of the United States from Massachusetts, New York and Ontario in the North, South through North Carolina and and Oklahoma.  It is also found established in scattered areas in the West.  

Image Citation: Jan Samanek, Phytosanitary Administration,

The leaves are alternate, simply shape, oval to nearly circular in shape, the base rounded and tip pinched to a sharp point.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous and dark green in color, while the lower is paler and hairy at the mid-vein. The flower averages 18 mm in diameter with 5 petals, white in color, circular in shape.  The fruit is black or red-black in color, a rounded drupe that averages 8 mm in diameter.  

Image Citation: Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft.,

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Melaleuca - Melaleuca quinquenervia

Melaleuca, Melaleuca quinquenervia, is most easily recognized by the combination of whitish peeling bark, white bottle brush shaped inflorescence and narrow 5 veined leaves. It is an evergreen tree that reaches heights of between 50-90 feet tall.  Generally growing in an erect form with a single trunk and narrow crown that is often open and irregularly branched.  It is well established in hammocks, pine lands, disturbed woodlands and along roadsides mostly in Southern Florida and sparsely in Southeastern Louisiana. This variety originated in Australia and Melanesia.  

Image Citation (In Bloom): Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,

Melaleuca quinquenervia is considered to be one of Florida's top three invasive species.  It covers thousands of hectares in tropical and subtropical regions.  Eradication efforts have been largely unsuccessful due to it's aggressive growth and rapid establishment.  It has even reestablished itself after forest fires that have wiped out all other growth.

Image Citation (Melaleuca Infestation):Randy Westbrooks, Invasive Plant Control, Inc.,

The leaves of the Melaleuca are alternate, simply shaped, slightly thickened and stiff.  When crushed the leaves have a resinous odor when crushed, narrowly elliptic, or oblanceolate with a evenly tapered base and tip.  The flower is bisexual with 5 tiny sepals and petals, white in color and circular shaped 2-3 mm broad, filaments are white.  They are produced closely together, sometimes interuppted, internodal clusters 5-15 cm long, giving the appearance of a bottle brush. The fruit which occurs almost year round is a roundish or square capsule that is stalkless and crowded encircling the stem between leaf nodes, seeds are brown.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Camphortree - Cinnamomum camphora

Camphortree - Cinnamomum camphora, is a small to mid sized evergreen that can reach heights of up to 60 feet tall.  It grows in an erect form generally with a single short trunk, sometimes producing several secondary trunks from the base.  The tree generally has a dense crown that grows in an oval form, with lustrous often low spreading branches that become more or less ascending with time.  Native to Asia, it is now naturalized on disturbed sites, vacant lots, roadsides, upland woodlands, and fence lines from Southeastern North Carolina, South through Georgia and Florida and West through Eastern Texas.  There are over 200 species of Cinnamomum recorded, most of which are native to India, China and Japan.  

Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,

The leaves of the Camphortree are alternate, simple in shape, and somewhat leathery at maturity.  The leaves and bark give off a camphor like aroma when crushed.  The bark is dark cinnamon brown to dark steel in color and becomes deeply furrowed with age.  The flowers are bisexual and tiny in size 1-2  mm in diameter, with 6 green-white or creamy tepals occurring in the Spring annually.  The fruit is a lustrous black drupe 8-9 mm in diameter and born in a cup like receptacle, maturing in Autumn to Winter annually.

Image Citation: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Biltmore Ash - Fraxinus Biltmoreana

The Biltmore Ash - Fraxinus Biltmoreana, is a small tree that is very common from elevations between 700 and 2500 m, in the areas surrounding Biltmore (the area in which it is named for), Panther Creek, Station Cove, Tamassee Knob, Brevard Fault Zone of North Carolina, Savage Gulf and Fall Creek Falls in the Cumberland Plateau, Wadakoe Mountain in South Carolina.  Most areas in which the Biltmore Ash are found have exceptionally productive second growth hardwood forests, but are generally drier then mixed mesophytic forests containing Hickories instead of Buckeye or Basswood.  

 Photo 1 Underside of leaves
Photo 2 Close up of bark detail
Photo 3 Canopy from below

Photo Citations (Photos 1, 2 & 3) : JK Marlow, Location: Bluewall Preserve - Greenville County - South Carolina,

Very closely related to White Ash in which it's growth range overlaps, although it's leaves and twigs are densely coated with fine hairs.  The seedlings are smooth until four or five years old, after which the young growth is pubescent.  The leaflets are tapering and narrow, but become thick and leathery and occasionally velvet like in the hottest an driest regions of it's growth zone.  The fruit body is plump and essentially round in shape, with wings extending no more than 1/3 of the way down the seed body.  The lumber is used locally for ax handles and wagons.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Blackjack Oak, Quercus marilandica

The Blackjack Oak, Quercus marilandica - is a small to mid sized, scruffy tree that is found growing in dry areas and generally doe not reach heights of more then 15-50 feet tall. The tree develops an irregular shaped open crown full of crooked branches. Blackjack Oak is one of only a few Red Oaks that manufacture and store the substance called tyloses.  Tylose seals it's vessels and makes the wood watertight.  The Blackjack Oak remains small in size and is often considered to have knotty wood which prevents it from having any value as a commercially produced lumber.  

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

The leaves of the Blackjack Oak are tough and leathery, triangular in shape, 4-8 inches long and wide with three shallow and broad tipped lobes near the end of each rounded base.  The bark is dark gray to almost black in color with some silver flaking on the surface, very rough on the surface with deep irregular fissures.  There are one or two acorns on short stalks with reddish to brown colored caps in the shape of a top.  The nut is elliptical 1/2 - 3/4 inches in diamter with a stout point.  

Image Citation: Vern Wilkins, Indiana University,

Blackjack Oak is native to the United States and can be found growing from Iowa east through New Jersey and New York, South through Florida and west to Texas and north to Nebraska.  It is almost always found growing on dry, sandy or clay soil. 

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Sassafras - Sassafras albidum

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, & (Photo 2) The Dow Gardens Archive, Dow Gardens, 

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,

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,

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.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Texas Red Oak - Quercus texana

Texas Red Oak - Quercus texana, (also called the Nutall Oak) is a medium to large tree that grows to reach heights of 115 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter.  The Texas Red Oak has a swollen base and spreading, horizontal, slightly drooping branches.  Texas Red Oak is commercially important in the floodplain areas of the Mississippi River, where it is harvested as Red Oak.  Wildlife rely on the acorns of this species as a reliable source of food.  Due to it's strength, ability to grow well in poor soil and nice appearance it is becoming a popular shade tree.  It is native to floodplains, bottom land woods areas, and wet clay soils from 0-200 m.  It is restricted in range mainly around the Mississippi River drainage basin from Alabama west through Eastern Texas, north to Southeastern Missouri and Southern Illinois.

Image Citation: Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University,

The bark of young trees is light brown in color, thin and tight with slightly raised squiggly shaped plates that cup up at the edges.  When sunlight reflects on this trees bark it reflects narrow silver streaks.  The branches are noticeably long, straight and slender with the lowest ones slightly drooping down towards the ground.  The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate, elliptic or obovate, with a wide angled or flattened base, with 6-11 lobes, all lobes are sharp pointed and bristle tipped.  The fruit is in the form of an acorn with a cup that is 10-16 mm deep, the outer surface is hairless or finely hairy. The cup of the acorn encloses 1/3-1/2 of the nut, the nut itself is broadly egg shaped or ellipsoid.  

Image Citation: Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University,

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Golden Dewdrops - Duranta erecta

The Golden Dewdrops - Duranta erecta, are most easily identified by their brilliant sky blue colored flowers and bright yellow fruit.  They originated in the West Indies but have been naturalized from South Florida to East/Central Texas.  In the United States they are found primarily on disturbed sites, pine lands, and hammocks from 0-100 m.  An evergreen shrub, occasional vine or rarely a small tree they reach heights of only 20 feet.

Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,

The unique sky blue flowers are about 1cm in diameter, with 5 petals each, borne in an elongated raceme ranging in size from 5-15 cm long.  The flowers occur year round.  The fruit is a round yellow drupe that matures year round an averages about 1.5 cm in diameter.   The leaves are opposite, simple, elliptic or egg shaped, tapered to a short point at the tip.  The bark is simple and gray when young, becoming fissured and rough with age.

The Golden Dewdrops is a member of the Vervain (Verbenaceae) family that includes roughly 35 genera and 1000 unique species found in only topical and sub tropical regions.  This family includes many colorful ornamentals and recent research shows this family is closely related to the Lamiaceae (mints & teak are in this family).

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pacific Yew - Taxus breifolia

The Pacific Yew - Taxus breifolia - is an extremely slow grower that sometimes rots from the inside, making it hard to determine the age by counting growth rings. The trunk often appears twisted and asymmetrical when left to grow in open areas but when growing in the tight confines of a thick forest it has little option but to grow straight. This conifer is native to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, from the southern portions of Alaska in the North through the Northern portions of California in the South. To the untrained eye it can easily be mistaken for a baby Hemlock , the best way to tell the difference between a Hemlock and a Yew is to look at the underside of the needles, Hemlock will be silvery in color and Yew will be a yellowish-green. The California Torreya also resembles the Pacific Yew, though it has longer needles and has seed coverings that are more plumlike and streaked in purple.

Image Citation: Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired),

The fleshy coral colored fruit is frequently eaten by birds even though it contains a poisonous seed. The seeds simply passes through their bodies intact so it does not harm them. The fruit has a sweet mucilaginous pulp that surrounds the seed. The bark is thin, scaly and brown to reddish-purple in color. The bark scales off in thin irregular patches. The flowers are pale yellow (male) and appear in axils of scales on short branches.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Downy Hawthorn - Crataegus mollis

The Downy Hawthorn - Crataegus mollis - is a relatively small tree or large shrub that reaches 25-35 feet at maturity.  It generally grows in a single trunk but can also grow in a multi trunk or shrub form.  Because of the dense branching structure and thorns, Downy Hawthorn and other hawthorns provide great nesting habitat for the Yellow-Breasted Chat, Brown Thrasher, and other small birds. They also provide excellent protective covering for birds and other wildlife during the summer.  The pollen & nectar attracts various bees, flies and beetles.  Other insects such as caterpillars and moths feed on the foliage, flowers and wood of the Downy Hawthorn.

The trunk bark is roughly textured, shallowly furrowed and a grey-brown in color.  The branch bark is smoother, and slightly lighter in color.  Young branches are non-woody and green.  The root system is woody and branching in habit, and it spreads by reseeding itself.  The leaves are simple, oval in shape and shallowly clefted with 3-5 lobes along the edges.  The leaves are generally bluntly pointed rather then rounded.  The margins are serrated or double serrated and the leaf bases are slightly cordate to truncate. Upper leaf surfaces are medium to yellow green in color while the lowers are pale green and pubescent.

White flowers are produced on short spur twigs, they are 1-3 inches across and generally flat headed.  The blooming period is short lasting only about two weeks during the late Spring.  The flowers have a foul often pungent odor.  Fertile flowers are replaced by small apple-like fruits that become ¾-1" across at maturity during late summer. Young fruits are light green and pubescent, while mature fruit are yellowish red to scarlet and hairless.  The fruits each have 4-5 chunky seeds.  

Photo Citations (Photos - 1, 2 & 3) Richard Webb,

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Portia - Thespesia populnea

The Portia - Thespesia populnea, is an evergreen shrub or small bushy tree that reaches heights of 10-30 feet tall.  Growing in in an erect form with either a single or multiple trunks and low branching habit.  It was introduced to the United States, but is native to Old and New world tropic locations, it has escaped cultivation and established itself on disturbed sites, coastal hammocks and beaches in South Florida.  In South Florida this species is considered to be invasive as it has a very weedy tendancy.  Thespesia is a genus of about 17  species that are distributed only in the tropical parts of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Australia.  

Image Citation: Dan Clark, USDI National Park Service,

The leaves of the Portia are alternate, simple, ovate, with a heart shaped base and long pointed tip.  The flowers are Corrolla yellow with a red or maroon base inside of the bloom.  Flowers are bell shaped about 8 cm in diameter with a staminal column about 2.5 cm long, occuring year round. The fruit that also occurs year round, is flattened or rounded in the form of a leathery capsule.  When young the fruit is yellow, becoming black when mature, the seeds are brown and hairy.  The bark is smooth brown with gray mollting.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Laurel Oak / Darlington Oak - Quercus hemisphaerica

The Laurel Oak (Darlington Oak) - Quercus hemisphaerica, is a large semi-evergreen that can reach upwards of 80 feet tall.  Due to it's semi-evergreen nature the tree slowly loses leaves throughout the winter months but still has some green leaves remaining in the Spring season when the new leaves begin to appear.  The Laurel Oak is most often planted as an ornamental tree.  Naturally the Laurel Oak is found growing in waterways and bottom lands where the ground remains moist .  Although it prefers wet areas, it can still preform well in dry soils.  Naturally the Laurel Oak is found growing along the Coastal Plain from Southeastern Virginia up the Mississippi River floodplain to Kentucky. 

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

Even in the Winter season, the leaves are the fastest way to identify the tree.  The leaves are narrow and long, 2-4 inches long and 1/2 to 1 inch wide and may be rounded or tapered before flaring out gently along the length of the blade.  The rough bark pattern becomes smoother on the upper trunk and along the major limbs.  Unlike most Oaks the leaves of the Laurel Oak easily break when bent.  The acorn is 1/2 inch long and almost perfectly rounded, 1/4 of the nut is enclosed by a saucer shaped cup.  Acorns take two full years to mature.  

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

Very similar to the Diamondleaf Oak, although the leaves differ on the lower surfaces, vein axils and habitat.  The Bluejack Oak is another similar species however their leaves have a blue or gray tint.  

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Japanese Pagoda Tree - Styphnolobium japonicum

Japanese Pagoda Tree - Styphnolobium japonicum, is recognized by the combination of  pinnate leaves, white or yellow to white flowers and yellow to brown, necklace like legume.  It is a deciduous tree that reaches heights of about 60-65 feet tall. Growing in an erect form with a single trunk and broad crown.  It was introduced from Asia and is cultivated and now naturalized from Pennsylvania and Ohio in the North to North Carolina in the South. 

Image Citation: Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft.,

The Styphnolobium or Necklacepods is a small genus, made up of only 7 species of shrubs and trees.  The leaves are always alternate and pinnately compound and the flowers bisexual.  The fruit is a very distinct beadlike legume and the seeds are toxic.  The species in this genus have been commonly grouped with the Sophora, unlike the Sophora species, they lack the ability the fix atmospheric nitrogen.  

Image Citation: Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft.,

The bark of the Japanese Pagoda Tree is gray-brown and ridged with elongated vertical furrows.  The leaves are alternate and pinnate, the blades are 15-25 cm long and about 11 cm broad.  The leaflets are 7-17 in number alternate and opposite.  The flowers are bisexual and either Corrolla White or Yellow White in color and about 1 cm long each.  The fruit is hairless and yellow-green to light brown in color and in the form of 8-20 cm long legumes with seed compartments that mature in Autumn and persist into Winter.  

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Cherrybark Oak - Quercus pagoda

Cherrybark Oak - Quercus pagoda, is most easily recognized by the combination of leaves with 5-11 marginal lobes and hairy lower surface, large buds and bark that is very similar to that of a Black Cherry.  It is a deciduous tree, potentially reaches heights of 60-80 feet tall.   Growing in an erect upright fashion with a single trunk which is generally clear of branches on the trunk.  The Cherrybark Oak prefers a bottomland, floodplain forest, lower slopes, river beds and other areas that are subject to periodic flooding.  The Overcup Oak is another Oak that is commonly found growing in the same habitat areas, however they are not very similar in appearance having very different leaves and acorns.  

Image Citation: Brian Lockhart, USDA Forest Service,

The leaves of Cherrybark Oak are alternate, simple, ovate or elliptic to nearly obvate.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous and dark green in color hairy when immature.  The lower leaf surface is paler and densely hairy and soft to the touch.  The fruit is in the form of an acorn with a cup that is 3-7 mm deep, brown in color, rounded and striped.  This is one of the largest and fastest growing of all the Southern Oaks.  

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Oysterwood - Gymnanthes lucida

Oysterwood - Gymnanthes lucida (also called the Crabwood), is the only tree native to Florida whos leaves have an eared base.  It grows in an erect form with a single trunk and narrow crown.  It is found in Hammocks in the Florida Keys and Southern Florida only.  A member of the very small genus Gymnanthes which is made up of only 12 species a distributed in the American tropics, Oysterwood is the only member found in North America.  It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that reaches height of only about 30 feet tall.  

Image Citation: Dan Clark, USDI National Park Service,

The bark of the Oysterwood is smooth, sometimes finely fissured, and gray-brown in color. The leaves are alternate, simple, leathery, elliptic with a distinct ear shape at the base.  The flowers are unisexual, with male and female on the same tree.  Flowers are mostly absent of petals and sepals.  Male flowers occur in elongated racemes reaches up to 5 cm long, but remaining shorter then the leaves.  Female flowers are solitary at the tip of a long stalk that arises from the base of the male raceme.  Flowers occur between Summer and Winter annually.  The fruit is rounded, 3 part with a dark brown capsule that reaches up to 12mm in diameter.  

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Southern Red Oak - Quercus falcata

The Southern Red Oak is a deciduous tree that reaches heights of around 100 feet but sometimes much larger.  It grows in an erect, single trunk with initially a narrow crown that spreads with age.  It is most easily recognized by it's U shaped based and extended sickle or strap like terminal lobe.  It is native to the dry, sandy upland woods, pine lands and sandy loam soils from Delaware to Southern Missouri in the North and Northern Florida, Oklahoma and Eastern Texas in the South.  
Image Citation:  Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

The Southern Red Oaks leaves are alternate, simple, mostly ovate, with a rounded base, and 3-6 bristle tipped lobes, the terminal lobe generally being the longest.  The upper surface is lustrous and dark green in color, the lower surface is a grayish or rusty color.  In the fall the leaves turn brown to yellow in color.  The fruit is an acorn with a shallow cup that encloses less then 1/3 of the acorn, the nut is an orange brown in color generally 1-1.5 cm long.  The bark is dark gray in color mixing in with black with age, it is deeply furrowed, ridged, rough and scaly with blocked plates.
Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

The Southern Red Oak is often confused for the Cherrybark Oak and the Turkey Oak, neither have the Southern Red Oaks signature U shaped leaf base.  The leaves of the Post Oak have a similar U shaped base, but the branches and lower leaf surfaces are visably different covered with a stellate grayish pubescence.  The Southern Red Oak is one of the more common Southern Red Oaks and is often found growing wild in pastures, woodlands and along roadsides in the native range.  It is not very tolerant to drought or low rainfall periods, the leaves when drought stressed turn brown in large patches.  It is most commonly found growing in combination with Loblolly, Longleaf and Virginia Pines, Black, Blackjack and Post Oaks, Gums, and Hickories.  

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Arborvitae - Thuja occidentalis

Arborvitae - Thuja occidentalis is monoecious evergreen tree that generally reaches heights of 40-50 feet tall, although it has the potential to grow much taller in ideal conditions.  It is a native northern Cypress with scale like leaves, and flattened twigs that are grouped in fan shaped sprays with bilaterally symmetric cones.  Found mostly on limestone derived soils, in swampy areas, riparian areas, and on cliff /talus from 0-900 m.  It is common from Ontario and New Brunswick in the north, south through the Appalachians of North Carolina and Tennessee.  It is also commonly called Northern White Cedar, American Arborvitae, Eastern Arborvitae, or Cedar Blanc.

Image Citation: (Foliage) Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

The bark of the Arborvitae is Red-Brown in color and becomes gray with age.  The bark is thin and fibrous becoming fissured and forming long strips with age.  The pollen cones are 1-2 mm long reddish in color. The seed cones are ovoid 9-14 mm long, green maturing to brown with 2 pairs of woody, fertile scales, each one is longer then it is wide.  The leaves are scale like, flattened 1-4 mm long, 1-2 mm wide, pointed and dull yellow-green on the upper and lower surface with visible glands and lateral leaves near twig tips.

Image Citation:  (Bark) Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

It is written that in 1536 an extract from the foliage of the Arborvitae saved the lives of Jacques Cartier and his crew who were suffering from scurvy during their second discovery voyage to Canada,  they in turn named the tree Arborvitae which is Latin for "tree of life".  They brought the tree home with them to Europe, making it the first North American tree to be introduced to Europe.   Since that time, there have been more then 120 cultivars discovered and named.  This sheer number makes it one of the most popular trees in horticulture today.  Arborvitae is also one of the longest lived trees in Eastern North America, it has been documented to live up to 1890 years.

Image Citation: (Row planting) Jason Sharman, Vitalitree,

Arborvitae is a very common planting in both residential and commercial settings.  It is recommended for hardiness zones 3-7 and holds it foliage year round.  This tree adapts very well to both shearing and shaping and naturally grows in a pyramidal shape.  It is often used as a natural fencing or planted in rows to create a hedgerow/screening effect.

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