Monday, November 29, 2021

Bald Cypress - Taxodium distichum

  The Bald Cypress - Taxodium distichum  is a large conical shaped deciduous tree with a domed top.  Though it is thought by many to have the appearance of an evergreen most times of the year.  Sadly people who are not familiar with this variety of tree will think the tree is dead when the leaves fall off and may rush to remove it.  Generally found growing wild in swamp areas and flooding river plains.  They are native to much of the Mid to South Eastern United States and planted widely as an ornamental.  




Image Citation:
Joseph LaForest, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Trees growing along the Chesapeake and other tidal areas flare it at the trunks towards the base and make the trunks look almost disproportionate.  Trees growing in brackish lagoon areas tend to grow "knees" which can grow as far away as 20 yards from the tree.   It can take 50 years for a tree to grow "knees", these knees contain spongy wood tissues and are believed to provide roots oxygen.


The leaves are flat, soft, and delicate and approximately 1/2 inch long.  They leaves are bright/light green when young and darken with age.  They grow alternately on side shoots which are shed completely when the leaves drop in the fall.  The male flowers grow in the form of 4 inch catkins while the females are small rounded cones which grow more often then not on different trees.  


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Monday, November 22, 2021

Mahaleb Cherry - Prunus Mahaleb

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



Image Citation: Jan Samanek, Phytosanitary Administration, Bugwood.org

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


Image Citation: Robert Vid├ęki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org


Thursday, November 18, 2021

Burning bush - Euonymus alatus

  This one is a common sight this time of year, with lovely red fire like coloring the Burning bush - Euonymus alatus is a well loved addition to many fall landscapes.




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

Recognized by the combination of opposite leaves, paired purple fruits, bushy form and winged stems. The Burning Bush is a deciduous shrub or rarely small tree that can reach heights of up to 14 feet tall, though usually grown in shrub form. Naturally it grows mainly in a bushy form with multiple trunks and a broad crown. Burning bush was introduced to the United States but has become established in areas from New Hampshire to Ontario in the North, Missouri and Oklahoma in the West, and Georgia in the South. This variety is even considered to be invasive in the Southeast.



Image Citation: Richard Gardner, UMES, Bugwood.org

The bark is light gray at first becoming dark gray with age. The leaves are opposite, simple in shape, thin, elliptic, wedge shaped at the base, and medium to dark green in color. In the fall the leaves turn a beautiful crimson or purple-red in color. From a distance many say it appears to be burning, hence the common name "Burning bush". The flowers are green-yellow in color and approximately 9 mm in diameter with 4 petals. The fruit is red-brown or purple in color and in the form of a 10-13 mm in diameter capsule. The fruit appears in late Autumn or early winter and has a bright red outer layer.



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


Burning bush can be found at most local nurseries and makes a lovely addition to any landscape. The Burning bush is recommended for hardiness zones 4-8. The Burning bush prefers full sun to full shade and can be planted in a variety of soil types including sand, loam and clay. It prefers moist, well drained soils and does not adapt well to poorly drained locations.

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Monday, November 15, 2021

Lilac Chastetree - Vitex agnus-castus

  The Lilac Chastetree - Vitex agnus-castus was originally introduced from Eurasia but has naturalized through the South and Middle to South Eastern United States.  It is found from Southeastern Pennsylvania and Kentucky in the North to Florida and Texas on West through California in the West.  It is distinguished by the combination of palmately compound, 5 parted leaves, and lavender flowers.   It is a deciduous strongly aromatic shrub or small tree that reaches heights of 10-25 feet on average and grows in an erect form.  Generally a single trunk but sometimes found with multiple stems, a rounded crown that is dense in shape.




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

The bark is reddish brown or brown in color, smooth when young becoming finely fissured and scaly with age.  The leaves are opposite, palmately compound, with 3-9 leaflet but usually 5, lanceolate tapering to a sharp tip.  The upper leaf surface is dull green in color and hairless moderately lustrous, the lower surface is grayish green in color.  The flowers are about 1 cm long,  5 petals, lavender, blue or white in color.  The flowers are born in erect terminal clusters that are 12-18 cm long.  The flowers occur in the Summer before the fruit which appears in late summer to early fall. The fruit is round, dry, hard drupe that contains a 4 parted stone.  
  


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

The Vitex - Chasetrees are a family of more then 250 species distributed in mostly tropical or subtropical regions of the world.  Several are grown as ornamental and other are used for lumber production.  Only 4 of the Vitex have naturalized in the East.  There are both deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs.



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Thursday, November 11, 2021

West Indian Mahogany - Swietenia mahagoni

 The West Indian Mahogany - Swietenia mahagoni, is best recognized by the fissured brown bark, leaves with curved leaflets and large fruit capsule.  It is a evergreen or semi deciduous tree that reaches heights of 50-85 feet and grows in an erect fashion with a broad crown.  It is native to subtropical hammocks, commonly grown in private gardens, along roadsides and in highway medians in South Florida.  The Swietenia is a small genus of only 3 species distributed in tropical West Africa and tropical America.  



Image Citation:  By I, J.M.Garg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2602302

The bark of the West Indian Mahogany is brownish and smooth when young, becoming reddish brown and fissured at maturity.  The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, absent of a terminal leaflet, with blades of 6-8 cms long and 4-8 leaflets (rarely as many of 20), usually recurved and asymmetric at the base.  The upper leaf surfaces are a lustrous green, while the underside is a more yellow-green or brown-green.  The flowers are uni sexual, 5-7 mm in diameter, 5 sepals, 5 petals and are orange-yellow or green-yellow in color.  Male and female flowers both appear on the the same tree, the male have long non functional pistils, the females short pistils, 10 stamens with filaments fused into a tube surrounding the pistil.  The fruit are a large egg shaped brown capsule that ranges in size from 6-13 cm long, each fruit splits into 5 parts that release numerous flat winged seeds.  Both the fruit and flowers occur/appear year round.  


Image Citation: By I, J.M.Garg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2602298


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Tuesday, November 9, 2021

West Indian Mahogany - Swietenia mahagoni

  The West Indian Mahogany - Swietenia mahagoni, is best recognized by the fissured brown bark, leaves with curved leaflets and large fruit capsule.  It is a evergreen or semi deciduous tree that reaches heights of 50-85 feet and grows in an erect fashion with a broad crown.  It is native to subtropical hammocks, commonly grown in private gardens, along roadsides and in highway medians in South Florida.  The Swietenia is a small genus of only 3 species distributed in tropical West Africa and tropical America.  



Image Citation:  By I, J.M.Garg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2602302

The bark of the West Indian Mahogany is brownish and smooth when young, becoming reddish brown and fissured at maturity.  The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, absent of a terminal leaflet, with blades of 6-8 cms long and 4-8 leaflets (rarely as many of 20), usually recurved and asymmetric at the base.  The upper leaf surfaces are a lustrous green, while the underside is a more yellow-green or brown-green.  The flowers are uni sexual, 5-7 mm in diameter, 5 sepals, 5 petals and are orange-yellow or green-yellow in color.  Male and female flowers both appear on the the same tree, the male have long non functional pistils, the females short pistils, 10 stamens with filaments fused into a tube surrounding the pistil.  The fruit are a large egg shaped brown capsule that ranges in size from 6-13 cm long, each fruit splits into 5 parts that release numerous flat winged seeds.  Both the fruit and flowers occur/appear year round.  


Image Citation: By I, J.M.Garg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2602298


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Monday, November 8, 2021

Sour Orange - Citrus x aurantium

  The Sour Orange - Citrus x aurantium is a small evergreen shrub or small tree that reaches heights of only 10-30 feet tall. The Sour Orange has been naturalized in Florida, Georgia and Texas, but originated in southeastern Asia and South Sea Islands (Fiji, Samoa, and Guam). Sour Orange is grown in orchards settings only in the Orient/various other parts of the world where its special products are of commercial importance, including southern Europe and some offshore islands of North Africa, the Middle East, Madras, India, West Tropical Africa, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Paraguay.




Image Citation:  NCSC Herbarium, Citrus ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org

The leaves of the Sour Orange are simply shaped ovate or elliptic, lustrous and deep green in color. The flowers are small, white in color and usually have 4 or 5 petals. The fruit is orange in color, round in shape with a thick almost leathery rind. Inside of the fruit is several separate sections or cells, each having at least a single seed. The fruit is fragrant, however it is generally too sour to be eaten on it's own. The primary use of Sour Orange is for the production of marmalade. The fruits are largely exported to England and Scotland for making marmalade.



Image Citation: NCSC Herbarium, Citrus ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org

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Thursday, November 4, 2021

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, November 3, 2021

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, Bugwood.org

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.  


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