Friday, December 6, 2019

Quickstick - Gliricidia sepium (also called Kakawati)

The Quickstick - Gliricidia sepium (also called Kakawati), is most easily identified by the combination of pinkish flowers, large blackish colored fruit and oddly number pinnate leaves. It is a small deciduous tree or shrub that reaches heights of only 32 feet tall, generally growing in an erect form with a single upright trunk. Originally introduced from Mexico and Central/Southern America it has been cultivated and established in Southern Florida, especially in Key West.

Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,

The leaves of the Quickstick are alternate, pinnate, leaflets are in odd numbers between 7-15, ovate, elliptic or lanceolate in shape with a dull green upper surface that is a dull green in color. The flowers are bisexual, white or pink in color 1.5-2.2 cm long, inflorescence is a raceme occurring at the branch tips. Similar in appearance to the Black Locust, however the Black Locust has white flowers and smaller fruit, their ranges do not overlap so you will not see both in one area.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Chalk Maple - Acer leucoderme

The Chalk Maple - Acer leucoderme, is most easily distinguished by it's small size and relatively small squarish-lobed leaves that are green beneath.  It is a deciduous small tree or large shrub that reaches heights of only 40 feet tall on average.   It grows in an erect form generally with a single upright trunk, occasionally a multiple trunk but always with an open spreading crown.  It is native to well drained upland woods, stream terraces, calcereous woodlands from 10-300 m, generally restricted to the Piedmont and sparingly in the coastal plains of North Carolina and Virginia on South through Florida, west to eastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma.  It is very similar to the Southern Sugar Maple and overlaps in range.

Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia,

The bark is smooth gray in color, the twigs are red-brown in color, lustrous, smooth and hairless.  The leaves are opposite, simple, thin and as broad as they are long.  The upper leaf surface is a lustrous yellow-green, the lower is a more even green.  The leaves turn a beautiful Salmon, Orange, Yellow or Purple-Red color in the fall.  The Yellow-Green flower is tiny in size with 5 sepals occurring in Mid-Spring.  The fruit occurs in paired samaras 2.5-3 cm long, widely angled from the point of attachment.  

Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia,

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Eastern Hemlock - Tsuga Canadensis

The Eastern Hemlock - Tsuga Canadensis is a very unique evergreen/conifer, this is because it's terminal leader often droops instead of giving the tree a typical pointed top like most in the Pine family. It's natural range begins to the North in Nova Scotia and continues South through Wisconsin and Minnesota, throughout the Alleghany Mountains and South through Georgia and Alabama. It is native to every state along the East Coast with the exception of only Florida in the far South. It is very common in the Mountains of Pennsylvania and Ohio, it is the only Hemlock variety that is native to Ohio. It's hardiness zone is 4-7. In the Southern range it is found only where there is moist air, rocky ridges, valleys, ravines lakeshores and hillsides. In the Northern range it is found in a wider variety of locations including on low rolling hills and even glacial ridges. It most commonly grows in mixed stand settings along with White Pine, Red Oak, Sugar Maple, American Beech, White Ash, and Yellow Birch.

Image Citation: Paul Bolstad, University of Minnesota,

In Eastern North America the Eastern & Carolina Hemlocks are greatly threatened by the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. Trees infested with Hemlock Woolly Adelgid can be easily identified by visable egg sacs, which resemble small tufts of cotton clinging to the underside of hemlock branches. Once infested trees generally become a grayish-green instead of there rich healthy green color. This pest feeds on the phloem sap of tender hemlock shoots, and may also inject a toxin while feeding. The resulting desiccation causes the tree to lose needles and not produce new growth. In the northern portion of the Hemlock's range, death typically occurs four to ten years after the initial infestation. Trees that survive the direct effects of the infection are usually weakened and may die from secondary causes. This pest has been identified as active in 11 states within the Hemlocks growth range causing major concern for the future of these majestic trees.

Image Citation: USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station , USDA Forest Service, SRS,

The Eastern Hemlock does not begin to produce cones until about the age of 15. The brown cones are relatively small only 1/2-1 inch in length and usually not more then a 1/2 inch wide. Once the cones begin production they come in high volume and for many many years, some specimen have been found producing cones even at 450+ years old. Seed viability is generally low, even though there are a large number of cones produced. The Hemlocks seed is easily damaged by drying. They regenerate best on exposed decomposing layers under 70-80% crown cover, in rotten logs or stumps or mounds where the temperature is warmest among the forest floor.

Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College,

The Eastern Hemlock grows in an upright primarily conical fashion with long branches that often droop at the ends. At full maturity they can average 100 feet tall but have been found growing as tall as 170+ feet. The bark is brown, scaly and fissured . The bark was once used commonly as a source of tannin or the leather industry. The needles are evergreen and flat, usually 5-25 mm long and set on each branch with peg like projection.

Image Citation: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Forestry ,

The wood is not of a high enough quality furniture making. It is used for light framing material, boxes, crates and even pulping. It is not considered an important timber tree in today's market. Commercial stands have been greatly reduced by prior harvesting and lack of replanting.

The Eastern Hemlock can be used as a specimen tree, planted in groups for screening, or even trained/sheared over time into formal evergreen hedgerows. It is tolerant of full shade and has a natural open growth habit.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Southern Magnolia - Magnolia grandiflora

The Southern Magnolia - Magnolia grandiflora - is a medium sized evergreen tree.  It is also called the Bull Bay, Big Laurel, Evergreen Magnolia or Large Flower Magnolia.  The native range of the Southern Magnolia goes from North Carolina south down the Atlantic Coast and through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Central Texas.  Averaging 60-80 feet tall in ideal locations, they usually reach maturity at 80-120 years.  It typically grows in an oval pyramidal shape.

Image Citations (Photo 1 & 2): T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University,

Featuring leathery leaves 5–10" in length, with a lustrous dark green top and soft, rusty underside.  The large White fragrant flowers appear April-June and are almost perfect in form.  The fleshy cone shaped fruit mature in late fall.  The fruit are 5-8 inches long and attract a wide range of wildlife including Squirrels, Rabbits and Birds. 

Image Citation (Photo 3): Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.),

Recommended for zones 6-10 this variety can be grown as far North as Maine and is found planted over most of the country with the exception of the North-Central Region.   Air-layering, stem cuttings and grafting are all successful means of propagation.  It can be found at most nurseries in it's growth range.  It is best planted as a landscape tree versus a street tree as the leaf, flower and fruit debris are often considered messy.  

The name Magnolia honors French Botanist Pierre Magnol, who was so impressed with the tree he transplanted one near his home in Europe over 300 years ago.  One of these trees grows on the White House grounds, it was transplanted by President Andrew Jackson from his home in Nashville, Tennessee.  This tree was transplanted to honor his late wife Rachel's memory.  

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Monday, December 2, 2019

Java Plum - Syzygium cumini

The Java Plum -  Syzygium cumini, Is a fast growing evergreen tree that reaches heights of 30-80 feet tall depending on the location/conditions planted.  It is considered a tropical tree and is a member of the flowering plant family Myrtaceae.  It grows in an erect single trunk they could be straight or crooked in form with a rounded crown.  The tree was introduced to Florida in 1911 by the USDA, it originated from Asia, specifically India and Burma.  It has become established in Maritime hammocks, lake margins, flatwoods and rocklands throughout Central and Southern Florida.  It is similar to the Malabar Plum Syzygium jambos but can be distinguished by the different sized leaves and fruit.  It is treated by the state of Florida as an invasive species. It can be found growing from Sea Level to 6000 feet above in the tropics. It grows best in areas with very high rain or humidity levels.
Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,

The leaves of the Java Plum are opposite, simple, thick, leathery, elliptic or oblong in shape with a rounded base and tip.  The upper surface of the leaves are lustrous and dark green in color with visible yellow lateral veins, the lower surface is a yellow-green in color and duller in sheen. Leaf blades are 7-18 cm long and 3-10 cm broad with a light yellow petiole of 5-25 mm long.  The leaves are said to smell similar to turpentine when crushed. The flowers are individually small in size only reaching 7 mm long, with 4 petals, fused in a rounded cap that opens and exposes a mass of white or pink threadlike stamens.  The flowers are produced in clusters 5-6cm long on the wood of the previous year.  Flowers on the Java Plum occur year round.  The fruit is fleshy with a single seed, it occurs as a oblong or ellipsoid berry that is 1-2.5 cm long and 2 cm in diameter.  When young the fruit is green becoming pink, red and then a purple-black.  The fruit matures year round the same as the flowers.  The pulp ranges from purple to white and is very juicy, with a sweet flavor in high quality varieties to astringent flavor in poorer varieties.

Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,

The products of the Java Plum are used for various purposes.  The fruit is used to make wine and vinegar, they are also a high source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.  The fruit seeds are used in alternate healing processes, Unani and Chinese Medicine (digestive ailments) and Ayurveda (diabetes control).

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