Friday, May 29, 2020

Bear Oak-Quercus ilicifolia

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

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

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

Image Citation: Will Cook, Carolina published 2010-

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

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Common Pricklyash - Zanthoxylum americanum

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

Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

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

Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

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

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Yellowwood Tree - Cladrastis kentukea

The Yellowwood Tree - Cladrastis kentukea, is a medium sized deciduous member of the legume family.  With it's smooth elephant grey bark, pendulous fragrant flowers, and red/brown stems it offers beauty to any landscape year round.  It is native to the Eastern United States, most notably two very small areas, one runs along the Kentucky and Tennessee border, and the other between Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.  It is commonly planted in landscapes from New England south to Washington DC & Virginia.   Yellowwood is hardy from zones 4a to 8b and can be purchased from most large nurseries in the Eastern US.  

The leaves are composed of widely spaced leaflets that are alternate not opposite one another. There are usually 9-11 leaflets per leaf.  The leaves are a yellow green in Spring, bright green by Summer and then Yellow in the Fall.  The wood of this tree contains a Yellow dye which stains the heartwood, hence the name Yellowwood. 

The flowers of the Yellowwood are very similar to Wisteria, they grow in a pendulous form and feature white fragrant flowers.  The flowers are small and grow on open panicles ranging from 10-15 inches long.   They are considered to be highly fragrant and appear in May.  The flowers give way to long brown seed pods as the Spring Summer season changes.

Image Citations (Photos 1-3): Missouri Botanical Gardens - 
 (This is a great site for plant/tree information and id help)

When mature this tree can reach heights of 30-50 feet and a spread of 40-55  feet wide.  It is considered to be virtually pest free and quite hardy in it's native range.  This tree is easily transplanted in B&B or bareroot up to 2 inches in caliper.
The Society of Municipal Arborist named this tree the "2015 Urban Tree Of The Year", this selection was made based on it's adaptability and strong ornamental traits.   

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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, 

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Paw Paw - Asimina triloba

The Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) is a small deciduous fruit bearing tree that is native to North America.  They grow wild in much of the eastern and midwestern portions of the country, but not in the extreme North, West or South.   

Image Citation (Photos 1 & 2): Rob Routledge, Sault College, 

The leaves are green in the growing season and an elongated oval shape ranging in size from 10-12 inches long.  In the fall the leaves change to a rusty yellow in color.  When crushed the leaves have a strong unique odor, often compared to that of a bell pepper.  The leaves contain toxic annonaceous acetogenins, making them impalitable to most insects. The one exception is the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly.  

The flowers have 3 prominent triangular shaped green, brown or purple outer petals.  The flowers are insect pollinated, but fruit production is often limited by the small number of pollinators that are actually attracted to flowers very faint scent.  

Image Citation (Photo 3): Wendy VanDyk Evans,

The fruit is a green-brown in color and a curved cylindrical shape - the shape of the fruit is very similar to a fat lima bean.  The trees produce an almost tropical fruit with vanilla or banana/mango flavors. When ripe, the fruit’s soft flesh is very creamy in texture. The large seeds are easy to remove, making the pawpaw an excellent pick for fresh eating.  The short shelf life makes it an uncommon find in most market areas.   Fresh fruits of the Paw Paw are generally eaten raw, either chilled or at room temperature. However, they can be kept only 2–3 days at room temperature, or about a week if refrigerated.  

Many animals and insects make use of the Paw Paw tree and it's fruit.  The flowers attract blowflies, carrion beetles, fruit flies, carrion flies and other beetle varieties.  The fruits of the Paw Paw are enjoyed by a variety of mammals, including raccoons, foxes, opossums, squirrels, and black bears. Larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly, feed exclusively on young leaves of Paw Paw.  Chemicals in the Paw Paw leaves offer protection from predation throughout the butterfly's life remaining in their systems and making them unpalatable to predators.  Whitetail deer do not feed on the Paw Paw.

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Friday, May 22, 2020

American Holly - Ilex opaca

The American Holly - Ilex opaca, is an evergreen holly that is most easily recognized by it's uniquely shaped lustrous dark green leaves with spiny margins.  American holly is a slow growing, long lived tree that can reach heights of around 60 feet tall, however they average only 45 feet in most regions.  They grow in an mostly erect upright fashion, with a single main trunk and a pyramidal shaped crown when grown in open areas.  Usually planted as a specimen tree, they require little pruning to keep their shape and naturally have a symmetrical growth habit.  When found in forest and woodland settings the American Holly has more of cylindrical shape with less branches and less symmetry.  

Image Citation: Richard Webb,

The American Holly has smooth light gray bark that occasionally has wart like growths.  The leaves are Alternate and simply shaped, either oblong or elliptic.  The leaf apex is spine tipped, sharp enough to pierce your skin, the margins usually are rolled downward.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous and dark green in color, the lower is duller but close to the same color.  The "fruit" comes in the form of small lustrous 7-12 mm rounded red berries.  These berries appear in the fall and grow in clusters at the base of the leaves.  Only female Holly Trees bear fruit/berries, which occur in Autumn annually.  Don't be confused however by the word fruit, the leaves and berries from Holly Trees are NOT EDIBLE to humans, and are known to cause severe stomach issues if ingested.  The small white flowers of the Holly occur with male and female on separate trees.

Image Citation: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,

American Holly is native to moist woodlands, rich slopes, margins of floodplain forests from 0-1500 m.  The American Holly can be found from New York and Massachusetts in the North all along the East coast South through Florida and West through South Easter Missouri and Eastern Texas.  They are recommended for hardiness zones 5-9 and is considered both evergreen and ornamental.  Holly trees offer beauty all year long as well as wildlife cover and food for birds.  Over 1000 cultivars have been developed from the Holly.  American Holly is the state tree of Delaware.  

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Sparkleberry - Vaccinium arboreum

The Sparkleberry - Vaccinium arboreum, is best recognized by the combination of reddish bark, bell shaped flowers and lustrous green leaves with a tiny point on the tip. It is an evergreen in most locations or late deciduous in colder climates. It grows in an upright fashion small bush or tree form. It is native to North America, dry sandy woodlands, thickets and clearings.  It is widespread on the East Coast of North America, found from Ontario in the North and Florida in the South, West through Kansas and Eastern Texas.  

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

The bark is reddish brown to molted gray in color that often peels in plates or sheets.  The leaves are alternate simply shaped and firm in texture, the upper surfaces are lustrous and dark green in color.   The flowers are white in color, usually around 4 mm long and cup shaped.  The flowers occur in the Spring Season.  The fruit is a black berry that is dry in texture and 5-9 mm in diameter occurring in late Summer to early Autumn.  

Image Citation:  David Stephens,

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Dotted Hawthorn - Crataegus punctata

The Dotted Hawthorn (Crataegus punctata) is a small deciduous tree that grows to heights of around 30 feet at maturity.  It generally grows with a single erect trunk with branched thorns and a broad flat topped crown.  It is native to the North Eastern United States from NB to Minnesota in the North through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina in the South.  The Dotted Hawthorn generally forms large colonies and is one of the more common Hawthorns found in the Northeast.  

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

The Dotted Hawthorn is best identifed by it's dull green leaves and indented veins, pale ashy bark and spotted pommes.   The pale ashy bark is grey and has plate like scales,  The branches are a pale grey and are covered in grey thorns that are between 2-8cm long. The leaves are alternate simple and obvate or elliptic in shape, thin and firm with 7-10 pairs of lateral veins that narrow at the base.  The upper surface is a dull green and hairy when young.  The flower is 13-20 mm in diameter with white circular petals surrounding around 20 stamens.  The flowers appear in early Summer season.  The fruit is a red, burgundy or yellow pome that matures in early Fall.

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

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

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Kentucky Coffeetree - Gymnocladus dioicus

The Kentucky Coffeetree -(Gymnocladus dioicus) -  is a deciduous medium sized tree with large, coarse, wide hanging pods that are red-brown when ripe.  It is best distinguished by it's large leaflets, large flowers, scaly bark and inflated fruit.  At maturity it can reach 18-30 m tall and grows in an erect single trunked, with a low branching habit.  The crown of the Kentucky Coffeetree is usually narrow or broad, pyramidal or rounded in shape.  It is a member of the Fabaceae (Bean) Family and included in the very small Gymnoclaudus genus which only contains 2 species (the other is native to China).

The leaves are large up to  30 inches long, divided into pairs of opposite side stalks with 6-14 oval leaflets on each stalk. The flowers are greenish-white growing in large upright clusters at the ends of each twig.  The bark is a reddish brown that becomes gray and irregularly fissured with age.  The twigs are stout and reddish brown in color and hairy only when immature.  The fruit is a tough, hard, inflated, red to brown woody legume that ranges in size from 15-25 cm long and 4-5 cm broad.  Each woody legume contains 4-7 seeds that are hard coated and nearly round in shape.

The Kentucky Coffeetree grows in moist places, floodplains, riverbanks, bases of ravines and valleys.  It is found in the Central and Eastern United States from New York and Massachusetts in the North, North Dakota in the West, Georgia, Alabama and Eastern Texas in the South.  It is naturalized and planted as an ornamental further East.  It grows best in rich, light soils.  This species is unusually free of fungus, parasites and insect infestations.  It is recorded that early settlers roasted the fruit of the Coffeetree for use as a coffee substitute, this is believed to be a possible origin of it's common name.

Image Citations (photos 1, 2 & 3): Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, (Node Affiliation: International Society of Arboriculture)

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Monday, May 18, 2020

American Snowbell - Styrax americanus

The "American Snowbell" - Styrax americanus - is a deciduous shrub/small tree that is native to the Southeastern United States.  It ranges in height from 6-10 feet with some even reaching heights of 15 ft in ideal conditions.  It is native to damp woods areas, swamps, marshes, flood plains and stream/river banks, sometimes growing even in standing water.  Primarily found in the Southeastern portions of the U.S. from Florida to Eastern Texas and North along the coastal plains to Virginia and up the Mississippi valley to Southeastern Missouri, up the Ohio valley to Southern Illinois and Southern Indiana.  

The American Snowbell has showy and fragrant white bell shaped pendulous flowers that average 1/2 inch long.  These flowers bloom from April to late May or early June (depending on the area) either singularly or in clusters of 2-4.  There are five reflexed petals in each flower.  The leaves are elliptic to oval in shape and range from dark to medium green in color.  the top side of the leaves have a slight sheen to them and the undersides are a more dull grey green.

Image Citations (Photos 1, 2 & 3): Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, 

The American Snowbell is recommended for zones 6-8.  It makes for a beautiful addition to any wooded landscape.  It prefers full sun to partial shade and moist soil.  It has a rounded shape and showy flowers that not only add interest, but also attract butterflies.  There are not any serious pests or diseases that effect this shrub/tree.  It is propagated by both seed and cuttings.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Bigleaf Magnolia - Magnolia macrophylla

The Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) is most easily recognized by it's very large leaves, flowers and cone-like fruit.  It is a deciduous tree that can reach heights of up to 60 feet.  The Bigleaf Magnolia has a single erect trunk with a pyramidal shaped crown and spreading branches.  It is native to moist, rich woodlands and slopes from Louisiana to Georgia in the south and Southern Indiana to West Virginia in the North.  This species is also cultivated outside of it's native range for ornamental purposes.  The Ashe's Magnolia is similar in appearance but the native ranges do not overlap.  

The bark of the Bigleaf Magnolia is pale grey or yellow-brown, smooth or slightly bumpy with inconspicuous plates.  The leaves are borne in whorl like clusters that occur near the branch tips.  They are simple obvate to broadly elliptical, wider around the middle.  The upper surface is dark green and hairless while the lower is surface is white chalky and hairy.  The flowers are fragrant, showy, creamy white in color, with a purple blotch at the base.  The fruit is a cone like aggregate of folicles that are round or slightly egg shaped, red when aged and splitting to reveal orange-red seeds that are 10-12 mm long.  The fruit matures in late summer. 

Image Citations (Photos 1 & 2): Amy Gilliss, Arundel Tree Service, Location-Mingo County, West Virginia

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Longleaf Pine - Pinus palustris

Longleaf Pine - Pinus palustris often reaches heights of more than 80 feet tall and generally no more then 2.5 feet in diameter. It is a tall straight conifer with an irregularly shaped open crown with widely scattered limbs. The open canopy has as much daylight present as it does branches. Large buds growing on branch ends are covered with silvery scale. The trunk is long, straight and limb free. Seedlings go through a grass stage where it is simply a single short stalk topped with a mop like tuft of long needles. Peeling back the the bark surface will reveal a clay brown to rust red color inner bark.

Image Citation: David Stephens,

The needles of the Longleaf Pine are noticeably long, measuring 10-16 inches, growing in bundles of three. The cones of the Longleaf Pine are the largest of any Pine in the area reaching sizes of 6-10 inches long. The winged seeds drop out of the cones each Fall.

(Stand of Young Longleaf Pines) Image Citation: David Stephens,

Longleaf Pine has many marketable products. It is considered to be a premier lumber tree and is harvested in many different types of markets. Longleaf Pine Needles are raked, baled and sold as Pine Straw Mulch. In earlier days even the Sap was collected and used in making Turpentine and other chemical compounds. The large Cones are even collected and sold to craftsmen.

(Longleaf Pine cone) Image Citation: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,

The natural range for the Longleaf Pine covers the piedmont and coastal plains regions of Southeastern Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Eastern Texas. Regionally it is also called Georgia Pine, Hard Pine, Heart Pine, Southern Yellow Pine or Yellow Pine.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Glossy Privet - Ligustrum lucidum

The Glossy Privet (Ligustrum lucidum) is best recognized by it's shrubby growth habit and lustrous v shaped leaf blades, large inflorescence and clusters of blue to black drupes.  The Glossy Privet is a large sized shrub or small tree that can reach heights of up to 20 feet tall.  It generally has multiple trunks, a vase shape and arching or drooping branches.  The Glossy Privet was introduced from Asia and established from cultivation throughout the Southeastern Coastal Plains from South Carolina to Central Florida, West through Eastern Texas.  

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

The leaves of the Glossy Privet are opposite, simple, thick and leathery often v shaped with a narrowly elongated tapered point.  The upper portions of the leaves are dark green and hairless, the lower surface is pale and slightly duller in sheen.  The flower is small, white with a slightly greenish hint, tubular with four petals born in conspicuous branching panicles.  The flowers are notably fragrant and are attractive to many pollinators.  The fruit is a blue to black drupe 4-8 mm long that matures in late Summer to early Winter.  

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

Privets grow at a fast rate, with height increases of more than 24" per year. They prefer full sun or partial shade, a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day. The Privet grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam and well-drained soils.  The Japanese Privet is similar in appearance and is sometimes confused with the Glossy Privet.  The easiest way to decipher between the two is the leaf size which is less than 10 cm on the Japanese Privet and greater than 10 cm on the Glossy Privet.  

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Golden Chain Tree - Laburnum anagyroides - Golden Rain

The Golden Chain Tree - Laburnum anagyroides (Golden Rain) is a small deciduous ornamental tree that reaches heights of 30-35 feet tall at maturity.  The Golden Chain grows in a erect, slender form with slightly dropping limbs.  It was native to Europe but has been long cultivated in the United States, common in landscapes along the East Coast especially in Massachusetts, but much more widespread in the West.  Laburnum, commonly called Golden Chain, is a genus of two species of small trees in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family Fabaceae.

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

The leaves are alternate, palmately compound with either 3 ovate or broadly lanceolate leaflets. The flowers are bright yellow in color and are generally 1.5-2 cm long each growing in long, loose, pendant shaped clusters that can range from 10-40 cm long.  The fruit is a slightly hairy plump brown legume that is constricted between the seed compartments.  

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

The wood from the Laburnum family has been used in woodworking, cabinet making, instrument production.  The heartwood is often used as an alternative to ebony or rosewood because of the dark yellow-chocolate coloring.  All parts of the Golden Chain are poisonous, symptoms can include sleepiness, vomiting, convulsive movements, coma, slight frothing of the mouth and unequally dilated pupils. In some cases, diarrhea can be very severe.

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Monday, May 11, 2020

Honey Locust - Gleditsia triacanthos

The Honey Locust - Gleditsia triacanthos is a large deciduous tree with an open spreading crown and branched spines growing from the trunk and branches.  It is most easily recognized by the combination of pinnate and bipinnate leaves, large visible thorns and elongated legume. Known to reach heights of 80-140 feet, they are considered a medium to large tree. Though in most areas it reaches an average of 65-100 feet.  The fruit is a flat black - brown hairy pod (legume) often a foot or more long and twisted in appearance. The leaves each have 7-16 pairs of leaflets and are a true green color during the growing season changing in the fall to a lovely yellow color.  Flowers are greenish-yellow, bell shaped and grow in small upright symmetrical clusters.  The bark is red when young becoming brown and deeply furrowed with narrow ridges when mature.
This tree grows naturally in many habitats throughout the Eastern United States from Pennsylvania in the North to Nebraska and Texas in the South. The cultivated forms often lack the prickly spines that many tree workers dread working around and are much preferred in residential and urban settings.  Recommended for hardiness zones 3-9, the Honey Locust is a shade tree capable of completely blocking sunlight to areas below.  Honey Locust's are fast growers gaining as much as 24 inches each year. They prefer full sunlight or at least 6 hours per day and are tolerant of wet and dry sites, salt, compacted soil, pollution and most other urban stresses.

Image Citation: (legumes) Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.),
Image Citation: (thorns) William Fountain, University of Kentucky,

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Friday, May 8, 2020

Sweet Birch or Cherry Birch - Betula lenta

The Sweet Birch or Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) is most easily recognized by the combination of fine and sharply toothed leaf margins, winter green scent, scales on the conelike fruit and dark brown almost black bark.  It is a deciduous tree that can reach heights up to 65 feet, but usually does not exceed 3.5 feet in diameter.  The tree grows in an upright form with a generally single eract straight trunk and a rounded crown.  The Sweet or Cherry Birch is native to the United States.  It prefers rich, moist soil, cool forest areas, mountain slopes, Appalachian hardwood forests.  It can be found naturally occuring from New York and Maine in the North to Northern Georgia, Alabama and Central Mississippi in the South.  It is not often confused with the closely related Yellow Birch as the bark is significantly different in not only color but texture as well (Yellow Birch has a yellowish exfolliating bark).

Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College,

The bark of the Sweet/Cherry Birch is a dark gray brown to brown black in color, it is smooth when young becoming furrowed with age.  The twigs exude a winter green aroma and taste when scraped or injured.  The leaves are alternate, simple, paperlike in texture, obvate and and heart shaped at the base.  The leaf margins are finely and sharply toothed.  The upper surface is a dark green while the lower surface is a more pale green.  The flowers occur in make and female catkins, the male are reddish brown and 7-10 cm long, while the female are pale green and 1.5-2.5 m long both occur in the late Spring.  The fruit is a winged samara born in a scaly erect egg shaped structure that matures in late Summer or early Fall.


Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College,

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Thursday, May 7, 2020

Smoketree - Cotinus coggygria

The Smoketree - Cotinus coggygria -  is a small deciduous tree and a native of the wooded hills above the Mediterranean.  Named for it's blooms of wispy filaments in either pink or cream that look like poofs of smoke radiating from the trees branches.   In some areas the tree is nicknamed the Mist Tree, Cloud Tree or even Jupiter's Beard.  It is a relatively low maintenance shrub/small tree classified as an ornamental.   With a max height of 10-15 ' tall and a spread of 12 ', the Smoketree grows at a medium rate of just 12-24 inches per year.

In addition to it's smoky filaments this tree also produces flowers from June to September that are not very noticeable they are yellow-pink to plain pink in color and are often hidden by the wispy hairlike filaments.  The leaves are small 1 1/4 to 4 inches long and a pretty blue green in color in season, changing yellow, purple and red in the fall.  When crushed the branches and leaves have an almost citrus smell often compared to an orange.

Image Citation:(1&2) The Dow Gardens Archive, Dow Gardens, 

Introduced in the America's in the mid 1600's, this tree makes for an interesting addition to any home/commercial landscape and is recommended for hardiness zones 5-8.  It is not particular when it comes to soil types and can handle both wet soil and semi drought conditions with ease.  This variety has been naturalized in ranges North of the American Smoketree from Illinois, Ohio, Maryland on North through Ontario and Vermont.  It is cultivated in the South as a specimen tree and is often found more often then the American Smoketree in this application.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Butternut - Juglans cinerea

The Butternut - Juglans cinerea, is a medium to large sized deciduous tree that can reach heights upwards of 75 feet in ideal growth conditions.  It is sometimes also referred to as the White Walnut and is best recognized because of it's combination of long pinnate leaves with multiple leaflets and sticky 4-angled fruit husk.  It is native to the woodlands, floodplains, river terraces, and rocky slopes of the Eastern United States.  Found from New Brunswick, West through Minnesota in the North continuing South to South Carolina, Georgia, Northern Alabama, Northern Mississippi and Arkansas.  It is sometimes confused with the Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) but the fruit husks are greatly different as one has ridges and the other lacks ridges and angles all together.  This species is considered to be at risk as the Butternut Canker a fungal disease caused by Sirococcus clavigignenti-juglans-dacearun, has wiped out large populations throughout the native growth range.  

Image Citation: Bill Cook, Michigan State University,

The bark of the Butternut is a light grey or brown, thick and deeply furrowed. The Leaves are alternate and pinnately compound with 11-17 leaflets one of which is a terminal leaflet. Each leaflet is 5-11 cm long and about 6 cm wide, narrow and ovate in shape with a tapering point at the end. The upper portions of each leaflet is a yellow green color while the lower is a paler in color, hairy and often sticky to the touch. In the fall the color of the leaves changes to a bright yellow or yellow-brown. The edible fruit is a brown ellipsoid or ovid drupe (nut) that is 5-8 cm long with a thick husk, it is sticky to the touch and mostly 4 sided. The kernel of the fruit is oily and matures in late Summer or Early Fall. The male flower of the Butternut are cylindrical, hairy and a green-yellow and occur as catkins that are 6-14 cm long, the female flowers occur as spikes of 4-7 flowers at the branch tips. The sweet sap of the Butternut is also edible and can be tapped during the Spring season. Butternut sap can be used as a refreshing drink, or boiled down to a syrup or sugar. The wood of the Butternut is coarse grained, soft, and very attractive, it weighs about 25 lb per cubic foot and is not as valuable a crop as the Black Walnut (J. nigra), but can also be used indoors for furniture, doors or trim.

Image Citation (Male Flowers): Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,

Image Citation (Female Flowers):Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,

The Butternut is recommend for hardiness zones and would make a lovely shade tree and nut producer in your landscape. Butternuts are the easiest of the native tree nuts to harvest and process though they are messy so be prepared for that when and if you decide to plant one in your yard. They are truly remarkable, in the sense that the nuts can remain fresh and edible for more than 25 years if the un cracked nuts are kept dry. Take care when trying to harvest the fruits/nuts as Butternut and Walnut husks emit a dye that will turn your skin and clothes brown. All trees in the Juglans family (this includes Butternut and Walnuts) generate a chemical from their root systems that will seep into the surrounding soil, the toxin, called juglone, prevents the growth of some species of plants. The most notable plants that can not tolerate juglone in their surrounding soils are rhododendrons, azaleas and crops such as potatoes and tomatoes.

Image Citation (Single Nut): Bill Cook, Michigan State University,

Butternut products have been used for generations for medicinal purposes.  The Native Americans used the Butternut as a laxative and/or tonic to remedy arthritic or rheumatic conditions, headaches, dysentery, constipation and treat wounds.  Modern medicine still recognizes Butternut as a remedy for chronic constipation as it helps gently produce bowel movements.  The inner bark is one of the few laxatives that are considered safe for use during pregnancy.  Butternut products have also been found to lower cholesterol and promote healthy liver function by improving the clearance of waste from the organ.

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

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Nannyberry/Sheepberry - Elderberry family

The Nannyberry is a small tree or large shrub native to the Northern United States and Southern portions of Canada. Generally found growing naturally along woods edges and within woodland settings. Nannyberry is in the Elderberry family and is also called Nannyberry viburnum or Sheepberry. This variety is best suited for zones 3-7 and grows well in alkaline, moist, dry or well drained soils. The growth habit of the Nannyberry is clumping, thicket forming, arching or multi stemmed. The Nannyberry is a fast grower and is adaptable from full sun to partial shade.

Image Citation: Missouri Botanical Gardens -

The Nannyberry can reach heights of up to 25 feet and prefers full to partial shade. Nannyberry is known for its dark, lustrous green leaves which turn a maroon to deep red in the fall. The leaves are finely toothed, short to long pointed, hairless and somewhat egg shaped, leafstalks are winged. The leaves are 2-5 inches long. The twigs are long and flexible, with a rough granular texture on the surface. Buds are brown or gray in color, long and slender with rough-granular scales. Flowers are white in color and appear on the "old wood" portions of the tree, not new growth. The berry like fruit (drupe form) starting out yellow and red and maturing to blue or black. Birds are attracted to the fruit that ripens in the fall and often persists into December. This plant is a caterpillar and larva host to the spring azure butterfly.

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Monday, May 4, 2020

Slippery Elm - Ulmus rubra

The Slippery Elm - Ulmus rubra is a medium sized tree that seldom reaches heights of more then 70 feet tall when fully mature.  When grown in an open area this tree tends to have a broad crown with long tapering branches and upward turned twigs.  From a distance the crown is sometimes described as two open hands touching at the wrist and then spreading away from one another.  The Slippery Elm is native to the Eastern United States from Maine to North Dakota in the North and Florida to Texas in the South.  Slippery Elm is not typically planted as an ornamental tree, but does provide shade by growing upright along fencerows that are already established.  

Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College,

The bark of the Slippery Elm ranges in color from light silvery gray to reddish brown.  The texture of the bark is a matrix of thin, wide, tight, flat topped, rough ridges with rounded edges divided by shallow irregularly shaped valleys.  The bark plates often appear to be more of a plastered collection then divided from one another by ridges and valleys.  The leaves are double toothed 4-7 inches long and 2-3 inches wide, more or less oval in overall shape.  The upper leaf surface is dull in luster and dark green in color, rough in texture similar to sandpaper.  The lower leaf surface is is very hairy and also rough to the touch.  The fruit is a very small, flat, papery, circular, winged disk that is borne each Spring.  

Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

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Friday, May 1, 2020

Devil's Walking Stick -Aralia spinosa

The Devil's Walking Stick -Aralia spinosa is best known for it's prickly trunk, umbrella form, and bi-pinnate or tri-pinnate leaves. It is a deciduous shrub or small tree that only reaches heights of only 30 feet tall. It is a member of the Ginseng family (Araliaceae). The main trunk is erect with a single trunk with little or very few ascending branches, the leaves are spreading and grouped near the top of the plant. It is considered to be invasive or annoying by many landowners and gardeners as the plant "pops" up at will and is often hard to kill without grinding out the root system. The Devil's Walking Stick propagates with a rhizomatous root system that extends just below the ground to create a cluster of plants in loose congregation. The individual stems are ramets, or clones, of the singular parent.   It is often times also called Hercules Club, Prickly Ash, Angelica Tree, Toothache Tree, Prickly Elder, Pigeon Tree, Pick Tree, Mississippi Hoe Handle, or Shotbush depending on the region.  

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

Devil's Walking Stick was also for medicinal purposes by the Native Americans and Colonial Americans.   A decoction of the bark was used to break a fever by increasing perspiration and for intestinal discomfort because of its emetic and purgative properties. The roots were mashed and cooked down to make a topical treatment that was used to treat boils and other skin irritations. Colonial Americans, notably those of African descent, used a similar topical treatment after a snakebite. The water used to boil the roots to craft topical treatments was also retained to treat eye irritations.  Devil's Walking Stick is mildly toxic if ingested in sufficient quantities.  The toxins are concentrated in the seeds of the berries and can cause gastrointestinal disturbances both mild and severe depending on amounts ingested.  There is some theory that Devil's Walking Stick has been the cause of livestock poisoning.   In spite of the soft and weak properties of the wood, it has been used to craft small boxes, picture frames, pens, and rocking chairs arms. The stems if cut in the early Spring can be stripped of their thorny external skin and made into plant stakes and ironically walking sticks.  It was planted as an ornamental in English gardens during the late 19th Century as a contrarious gesture to conformity as it has a natural appearance that is in no way formal. Today it is not sold or marketed as an ornamental as it is not an ideal planting for any landscape other then a natural one, if planted it is used mainly in reforestation areas. 

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

The Devils Walking Stick is native to woodland areas, undisturbed lands, thickets, bogs and pine margins from Maine to Central Florida in the East and Missouri to Eastern Texas in the West. It is generally found between 0-1500 meters in elevation. There are only two non-native tree sized species of Aralia that are naturalized in North America, The Japanese Angelica Tree and The Chinese Angelica Tree, both are similar in appearance but not necessarily in size.  The bark of the Devils Walking Stick is brown, smooth with slightly rough sections that bear obvious prickles that are very painful when making contact with the skin. The branches are stout, prickly and often have large encircling leaf scars. The leaves are alternate, bi-pinnate or tri-pinnate, compound, with triangular blades, numerous leaflets and a short stalk. The leaves are dark green on the upper surface and pale green on the lower, in the fall the leaves change to a rust or bronze color.   The flowers are made up of tiny white petals and sepals, five of each, inflorescence and a large terminal compound panicle. The flowers appear in the early Summer. The fruit is round, 5 stoned purple-black, or lavender drupe that is 5-8 mm long and matures in the Fall.

Image Citation ( 2 Photos- Trunk/Stem and Fall Leaves): Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

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