Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Cashew Tree Anacardium occidentale

 The Cashew Tree  Anacardium occidentale is a tropical evergreen that produces the Cashew seed and Cashew Apple.  Reaching heights of around 45 feet it is not a large tree by any means.  The trunk is generally short and irregular in form.  The dwarf variety is considered to be more profitable having earlier production maturity and higher yields at around 20 ft tall.  Native to Brazil, Portuguese colonist were recorded to export the tree and nuts as early as 1550.  Currently there is major Cashew production occurring in Vietnam, India, Nigeria and The Ivory Coast.  During the 21st century Cashew cultivation has significantly increased to meet new demands for manufacturing of Cashew Milk a plant based alternative to Dairy Milk.  In 2017, globally the production of Cashews was measured in tonnes at 3,971,046 with the leading producer being Vietnam 22%, India 19% and the Ivory Coast 18%. Benin, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Mozambique and Tanzania are all also notable producers.



The leaves of the Cashew Tree are spirally arranged, elliptic to obvate in shape and leathery in texture.  The flowers are produced in panicle or corymb up to 10 inches in length.  Flowers begin as small and pale green in color, becoming red and slender with maturity.  The Cashew Nut, simply called Cashew is widely consumed throughout the world.  It can be eaten alone, used in baking, as a salad topping or processed into Cashew Cheese or Cashew butter.   The Cashew Apple is a light red to yellow fruit similar to a gourd in appearance, it is an accessory or false fruit.  The pulp of this false fruit can be processed and made into a astringent but sweet drink or distilled into liquor.  The actual fruit of the tree is the kidney shaped drupe that occurs at the base of each Cashew Apple. Within each true fruit is a single seed (or nut), this seed is surrounded by a double shell that contains a resin that is an allergenic phenolic, called anacardic acid.  Anacardic acid is chemically related to Urushiol which is the toxin found in Poison Ivy.  For this reason Cashews are not readily available or sold in shell direct to consumers.




We recently visited Saint Lucia (one stop on a cruise) and while there we toured the Drive In Volcano / Geothermal Area near Soufrière. There at the site just on the edge of the overlook was a lone Cashew tree, the first I have ever seen in person (and not in a book) so I was quite intrigued.   The tour guide explained how the Cashew was not native to the island, but was introduced over 100 years ago and is now found throughout the island. She also explained in depth about the risks of eating or handling an "unprocessed" Cashew because of what she called the "poisonous shell".  The tree itself appeared to be mature between 35-40 ft tall and has had obvious damage from what I assume to be weather combined with tourist over the years.  Perched at the edge of the overlook it is only protected by a small rail system but otherwise is right in the flow of foot traffic.  It's trunk is irregular and gnarly in appearance and part of the canopy appears to have broken out well before our visit, though it still hangs on directly above the (Smelly) Sulphur Springs bubbling below.  Another testament to the strength and determination we so often see in nature.


Photo Credits (1, 2 & 3): Amy Gilliss, Arundel Tree Service 
Location - Sulphur Springs (geothermal area) Soufrière, Saint Lucia.
It was very hard to photograph trees in this crowded tourist area as they are not the "attractions" to others ;-) 


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Monday, January 18, 2021

Red Spruce - Picea rubens

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



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

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


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

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Friday, January 15, 2021

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

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



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

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


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

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

American Smoketree - Cotinus obovatus

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



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

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



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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Black Jack Oak - Quercus marilandica

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



Image Citation: David Stephens, Bugwood.org

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



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

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Monday, January 11, 2021

Blue Ash - Fraxinus quadrangulata

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



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

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


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

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

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Friday, January 8, 2021

Pondcypress - Taxidium ascendens

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


Image Citation: David Stephens, Bugwood.org


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


Image Citation: David Stephens, Bugwood.org


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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Winged Elm - Ulmus alata

 The Winged Elm - Ulmus alata, is a small to medium sized deciduous tree that reaches heights of less then 50 feet tall and usually not more than 1.5 feet in diameter. The Winged Elm has a generally wide, rounded crown that is made up of long slender branches many of which are winged with wide, cork like ridges on either side making the tree easier to identify.  It is sometimes also referred to as the Cork Elm or Wahoo.  Winged Elm is common in the Southern portion of the United States and can be found easily from Virginia south through Florida and West through Texas.




Image Citation: Joe Nicholson, Bugwood.org

The bark of the Winged Elm is thin, irregularly shaped, with rough flat plates, shallow fissures and light gray in color. When shaved or peeled back the bark will reveal thin bands f dark and off white thin inner layers. The leaves are 1.5-3 inches long and 1-1.5 inches broad, with evenly spaced coarse teeth that are divided by smaller thinner teeth in between. One side of each leaf is wider then the other, with the thin yellow vein appearing off center on each leaf. The leaves are a bright green in color and can be either smooth or rough on the upper surface, while the lower surface is always smooth.  In the fall the leaves turn a lovely bright yellow and sometimes a coppery brown.




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

The Winged Elm is a small tree and can be used in both commercial and residential settings. Since it is a relatively small tree it does not have value as far as lumber production is concerned. It is also not a desired firewood as the grain of the tree is interlocking and very difficult to split by hand. The Winged Elm has not been recorded to be affected by Dutch Elm disease, a disease that has been deadly to most Elm varieties. Recommended for hardiness zones 6a-9b.

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Monday, January 4, 2021

Carolina Hemlock - Tsuga caroliniana

 The Carolina Hemlock - Tsuga caroliniana, is a member of the Pinaceae (Pine) family and of the genus Tsuga.  It is Native to areas with nutrient poor soil and low risk of fire, most often found growing slong side mixed hardwoods-conifer stands and Rhododendron understory from 600-1500 m.  Carolina Hemlock can be found growing from southwestern Virginia, eastern Tennesee, western North Carolina South Carolina and northwestern Georgia.    




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

The Carolina Hemlock is an attractive tree but does not have a high commercial value and is rarely grown ornamentally.   Reaching heights of 60 feet tall it is very similar in appearance to the Eastern Hemlock.  The cone of the Carolina Hemlock is ovoid to oblong, 2.5-4 cm long and 1.5-2.5 cm broad.  The cone scales spread widely as the cone dries out.  The twigs are light brown, smooth and thinly covered with short dark hairs.  The leaves are in the form of 10-20 mm long flat and slightly downcurled needles that spread in all directions from the twig.  



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

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