Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Cottonwood - Populus deltoides

The Cottonwood - Populus deltoides  - is a tall deciduous shade tree with a large spreading crown, named for its cotton-like seeds. It is part of the Poplar family, this diverse family includes the quaking aspen, which boasts the widest range of any North American tree, and the Plains cottonwood, which was the only tree many early settlers met as they forged westward through America's prairies.  It is also one of the largest North American hardwood trees.


Image Citation: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Eastern Cottonwood grow from 60 to 100 feet tall.  The leaves are almost triangular in shape, 3-5" long and wide. In the Spring the start as a Shiny Green then turning a bright yellow-gold in fall. The leaves are alternate and simple, with coarsely toothed (crenate/serrate) edges, and subcordate at the base.  Male and female flowers occur on separate catkins, and appear before the leaves in spring. The seeds are within a cottony structures that allows them to be blown long distances in the air before settling to ground.  Their fruit consists of egg-shaped capsules averaging 1/2" long, that mature in spring and split into three parts. Bark is gray, thick, rough and deeply furrowed.  The cottonwoods have a rapid growth rate and are also adaptable to many soils and climates.  They are very resistant to flood damage but do not fair well with wind or heavy ice storms. Recommended for growth Zones 2-9

Image Citations: (Bark-Left) Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org & (Seeds/Cotton-Right) Troy Evans, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bugwood.org

Cottonwood trunks provided a great material for early timber homes and canoe making. Their bark was used to produce food for horses and a bitter medicinal or healing tea. In regions with few trees, the very noticeable cottonwoods often served as gathering places and trail markers, and as sacred objects for several Plains tribes, they were also a sure sign that water was nearby as when found in the wild their roots almost always are near a water source. Today, Cottonwood's are most commonly used to produce some interior grade furniture, plywood, matches, crates, boxes, and paper pulp.  The lumber is considered weak, soft, light and often warps during the drying process.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Sawtooth Oak - Quercus acutissima

The Sawtooth Oak - Quercus acutissima is most easily recognized by it's fringed acorn cup and narrow leave with bristle tipped teeth, resembling the teeth of a saw. It is a fast growing, deciduous shade tree that can reach heights of 30- 70 feet tall. Sawtooth Oak grows in an erect fashion with a single trunk and dense rounded crown. Originally introduced from Asia, generally found in planned landscapes and is reported to be naturalized in scattered areas from Pennsylvania South to North Carolina and Georgia, South to Louisiana. Sawtooth Oak is primarily planted for wildlife cover and food due to it's abundant fruit and fast growth habit. This species is sometimes used for urban and highway beautification as it is tolerant of soil compaction, air pollution, and drought.



Image Citations (Photos 1 & 2): Richard Gardner, UMES, Bugwood.org

Named for it's unique leaf edges, the Sawtooth Oak is a beautiful tree. The green leaves are alternate, simple, oblong or obvate, 12-16 pairs of sharp bristle tipped teeth, parallel veins and a lustrous upper surface and dull pale underside. The leaves add to the visual interest by beginning a brilliant yellow to golden yellow color in the Spring, turning dark lustrous green in summer and yellow to golden brown in the fall. The bark is dark gray in color with light gray scales that become deeply furrowed with age. The fruit is in the form of an acorn, the cup encloses 1/3 - 2/3 of the 1-2.5 cm nut. The acorn rim is adorned with long spreading hairlike scales that form a distinctive fringe.


Recommended for hardiness zones 5-9, the Sawtooth Oak can be found at most larger nurseries within those zones. Sawtooth Oak is also considered to be easily transplanted and hardy making it a wise choice for any landscape with room for a large spreading shade tree. It is similar to the Chinquapin Oak Castanea pumila in appearance, distinguished primarily by the difference in fruit.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Pitch Pine - Pinus rigida

The Pitch Pine - Pinus rigida is a 3 needle pine with random or adventitious branch habit and clustered cones.  The tree can grow either upright or with a crooked trunk, always with an irregularly shaped rounded crown.  Reaching heights upwards of 100 feet and 36 inches dbh (diameter at breast height) at maturity.  It is native to upland or lowland sites that may considered otherwise infertile, sandy dry or even boggy type soils are all suitable for the Pitch Pine.  It can be found at elevations ranging from 0-1400 m from Georgia in the South to Maine and Quebec in the North.  The Pitch Pine is the dominant tree in the Pine barren forest of New Jersey, however in the rest of it's growth region it is secondary to the Virginia (Scrub) Pine, Table Mountain Pine, Eastern White Pine, Atlantic White Cedar, and various types of Oak (depending on the region).


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

The Pitch Pine has the ability to resprout even when cut off at the base of the tree, this makes it extremely hardy and able to survive even after forest fires which can kill off anything green.  The wood of the Pitch Pine is considered to be decay resistant, this is due to the high resin content.  Pitch Pine lumber has been used in Ship Building, for Mine Props, as Railway ties and distilled to produce Pitch.  Pitch Pine is considered to be ecologically important in its native range as it is an important forest tree and the seeds are a foraging source for wildlife in the Winter.

The bark of the Pitch Pine is red-brown in color and deeply furrowed with long irregularly shaped, flat scaly ridges.  The needles are 5-10 cm long straight, stiff, sharp and a deep green to yellow green in color, occurring in bundles of 3 (rarely 5) that are held within a sheath that is 9-12 mm long.  The pollen cone in approximately 20 mm long and yellow in color, while the seed cone is often clustered 3-9 cm long and a light reddish brown color.  Cones on the Pitch Pine can remain on the tree for many years.


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

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

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, Bugwood.org

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, Bugwood.org


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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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Glossy Buckthorn - Frangula alnus

The Glossy Buckthorn - Frangula alnus is a deciduous small tree or shrub that reaches heights of 20-25 feet.  Generally growing with multiple erect trunks in a shrubby form, with a stout crown.  Originally introduced from Europe about 200 years ago, Glossy Buckthorn has become established in weedy bogs, and other wetland areas.  Found as far North as Saskatchewan and Quebec South to West Virginia and Tennessee and West to Idaho and Colorado.  The Glossy Buckthorn is considered to be invasive in many areas and is treated as an invasive species in most Mid-Western wetland areas. 


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

Named for it's lustrous or glossy upper leaf surfaces, the Glossy Buckthorn is also easily identified by it's shrubby habit and clusters of red, purple or black drupes.  The bark of the Glossy Buckthorn is smooth and gray-brown in color with visible horizontal lenticels.  Young twigs are void of thorns and slender in form.  The leaves are alternate, oblong or oval in shape, with a rounded base and sharply pointed tip, sometimes having a wavy overall appearance.  The upper leaf surface is a dark lustrous or glossy green, while the undersides are a dull paler green.  Each leaf surface contains 5-9 pairs of obvious parallel lateral veins that curve to follow the margins.  The fall foliage turns a bright yellow and tends to remain on the tree/shrub long after others have lost their leaves. The flowers are bisexual, small in size and a creamy green or yellow-green in color, occurring in clusters at leaf axils each Spring.  The fruit is a rounded drupe, usually containing 2 seeds, 5-10 mm in diameter.  The fruit is red when young becoming a purple-black with maturity in the late Summer season.  


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


The Glossy Buckthorn is suited for hardiness zones 3-7 however it is not a recommended planting as it can overtake native species easily.  It's seeds are spread by various types of wildlife including birds and small mammals.  It easily adapts to not ideal growing conditions such as full sun, little sun and even high soil pH levels.  



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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Juneberry - Amelanchier alnifolia

The Juneberry - Amelanchier alnifolia - is a very hardy (to zone 2) medium to tall suckering shrub.  This shrub is native to hillsides, prairies and woody areas in North America, mainly the further north portions of the Mid-Western United States and prairie regions of Canada.  Juneberry -Amelanchier alnifolia is a close cousin of the Eastern Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), which is found more commonly in the United States as a tall forest shrub.  Our neighbors to the North in Canada call the Juneberry the Saskatoon Serviceberry and even harvest it on farms for wholesale, you pick and fresh market uses.  The Juneberry seems to have several advantages to the more commonly grown/known Blueberry.  While Blueberries prefer well-drained acidic soils, the Juneberry is not so picky and will often thrive in areas where a Blueberry bush would die.  Juneberries are considered an uncommon fruit in the United States, with virtually no commercial cultivation.  In comparison to the market of our Canadian neighbors where Juneberries are grown on almost 900 farms covering more than 3,200 acres.  

The Buds of the Juneberry are arranged in an alternate fashion, when the buds appear they are a Chestnut Brown to Purple in color.  The leaves are a simple oval shape and are serrated to dentate from the mid sections up.  When young the leaves are a grayish color, but quickly changing to a smooth dark green.  In the fall the shrub has a completely different appearance when the leaves shift to a bright yellow color.  The white flowers form in erect racemes appearing only at the tips of the branches.  The bark is light brown in color often shifting to gray with age.  It's hardiness, upright form, and size allow the Juneberry to be planted as a screen, windbreak, landscape border or for naturalizing of an area. Often found growing 6-15 feet tall with a spread of 5- 12 feet.  The Juneberry has a very high wildlife value as it offers not only cover but various food sources. The stems and twigs are eaten by deer, elk and moose. The fruits are eaten by a variety of small mammals and birds. The wood of the Juneberry was used in crafting arrow shafts by the Native Americans.

Image Citation (Flowers): Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte, Bugwood.org

Juneberries are very nutritious and are sold fresh, frozen, and even processed.  They are most commonly compared in flavor texture and appearance to the common Blueberry.  An average Juneberry contains 18 percent sugar, and about 80 percent water.   Juneberries have a lower moisture content than blueberries, so they have relatively higher amounts of calcium, fiber, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. Juneberries are an excellent source of iron, with each serving providing around 23% of the recommended daily amount of iron (this is almost double what a Blueberry contains). They also provide healthy amounts of potassium, magnesium, anthocyanins.  The levels of phosphorous. vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folate, vitamin A and vitamin E are almost identical to that of a Blueberry.

Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte, Bugwood.org

If you want to begin your own Juneberry crop, begin by developing your rows well in advance of ordering or delivery of plant material. Rows should be spaced on average 10 – 12 feet apart, planning for about 4 feet between bushes at maturity.  It will take patience as your first crop will not be ready until three years after planting, but you can expect each bush to yield 4 – 6 pounds of berries annually.  Remember that they need adequate water to bear fruit but do not tolerant excessively wet roots so do not overwater.  Great care in establishing your new crop will provide you with a very yummy payoff year after year!

Some commonly cultivated varieties you may find for purchase are:   Honeywood Juneberry (A. alnifolia 'Honeywood'), Northline Juneberry (A. alnifolia 'Northline'), Pembina Juneberry (A. alnifolia 'Pembina'), Smokey Juneberry (A. alnifolia 'Smokey'), and Success Juneberry (A. alnifolia 'Success')

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Monday, October 7, 2019

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), Bugwood.org

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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Friday, October 4, 2019

Chickasaw Plum - Prunus angustifolia

Chickasaw Plum - Prunus angustifolia, is a thicket-forming small tree that has an early blooming habit and folding leaves. It is deciduous and reaches heights of only 20 feet tall.  It grows in an erect fashion with multiple trunks and a thicket forming habit.  It is native to the United States from New Jersey to Pennsylvania in the North to Florida, Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico in the South and West.    Commonly found on roadsides, in old fields, sandy clearings, rural homesteads, thickets, in open woods, dunes pastures from 0-600 m.

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

The bark is a dark reddish brown to gray, splitting but not exfoliating.  The leaves are alternate, simple, lanceolate, narrowly elliptic or oblong, upward folding from the mid rib, with a wedge shaped base.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous, bright green, hairless with a dull under surface. The flowers are 7-10 mm in diameter, 5 petals, 10-20 stamens each, with white filaments.  The fruit is ovoid or ellipsoid red or yellow drupe, 1.5-2.5 cm in diameter.  The fruit is considered to be pleasant tasting and can be used for making wine, jam and jellies.

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

The thickets are used by cattle for shading and protection from the summers heat.  When thickets form a majority of a cattles grazing area they tend to gain weight faster.  The thorned thickets are a popular plantings for songbirds and game bird nesting and roosting.   The fruit is eaten by numerous birds and small animals.  Lesser prairie-chickens use the cover of the thickets for cooling during the day.  Fire can damage the thickets but does not generally kill the plantings.



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Thursday, October 3, 2019

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, Bugwood.org

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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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

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 occurring 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 tall 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, www.Bugwood.org 

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, www.Bugwood.org 

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.), www.Bugwood.org 

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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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Peach - Prunus persica

The Peach - Prunus persica is most easily identified by its distinctive fruit and long narrow leaves.  It is a small deciduous tree that only reaches average heights of 10-30 feet tall.  The Peach is commercially cultivated and generally well managed in size and shape, however when found in the wild it often grows in a more shrubby habit.   The tree in generally grows in an erect form, with a single trunk and open crown.  Initially introduced from China, the Peach has been established in almost all of the Eastern United States.  Peaches were brought to the United States in the 16th century and to Europe during the 17th century.  Peach trees are often found growing wildly along fence lines, in old fields, on roadsides, and escaped from cultivation on the edges of farms.


Image Citation: Paul Bachi, University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, Bugwood.org

The bark of the Peach is reddish-brown in color with hairless twigs.  The leaves are alternate, simple in shape and elliptic or lanceolate, often folding upward from the mid rib area.  Leaves are a bright-deep green in color when mature, often slightly lighter when young.  The dark pink flowers of the Peach tree are 2-4 cm in diameter with 5 petals each, occuring in the early Spring.  The fruit is rounded, occasionally with a slight point at the base, yellowish to orange drupe with a red tinge in sections and a generally hairy surface.  The fruit has a 4-8 cm stone like pit in the center.  Commercially Peaches mature during the Summer season, with some heirloom varieties not maturing until late Summer or very early Fall.



Image Citation: Paul Bachi, University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, Bugwood.org

Peaches grown commercially are an important crop and a popular fruit.  China is currently the number one producer of Peaches worldwide.  A ripe Peach is best found by first smelling the fruit, there should be a sweet fragrance and then gently squeeze the Peach, when ripe they will never be hard.   It has been found that there are over 110 various chemical compounds within a Peach that create their unique aroma. Thought they are a fruit which many automatically assumes makes them "healthy" the average fruit has very little nutritional value.  There are currently over 2000 known varieties of peaches in the world today, many of which are suitable for growing within your own garden.


Image Citation: Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org


In many cultures Peaches also have symbolic values.  In China Peach blossoms are considered to be a symbol of vitality as the blossoms appear prior to the leaves.  They are also often called Peaches of Immortality, local magistrates would cut peach wood branches and place them over their doors to protect against evils. One of Japan's most noble and semihistorical heroes, Momotaro was born from within an enormous peach floating down a stream.