Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Ohio Buckeye- Aesculus glabr

   The Ohio Buckeye- Aesculus glabra - is a medium sized rounded crown Deciduous tree. Growing to only 20-40 feet tall at maturity, it has a moderate growth rate.  It is the most widespread of all of the Buckeyes in North America. It's range is on mostly mesophytic sites through Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Southern Michigan on West to Illinois and Central Iowa, extending South to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Central Texas; East into portions of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama. This tree thrives best in moist locations and is most frequently found along river bottoms and in streambank soils.  It has been planted frequently outside of it's native range in Europe and the Eastern United States.  Different from the other Buckeyes because of two main features, first the leaflets have barely any visible stalk and second the husk of the fruit has short spines.  The Ohio Buckeye is sometimes referred to as the American Buckeye, Fetid buckeye, and Stinking Buck-eye, the last because of the foul odor emitted when the leaves are crushed.




Image Citations (Photos 1, 2, & 3): T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org 

Ohio Buckeye is polygamo-monoecious, meaning it bears both bisexual and male flowers. The leaves are made up of unevenly toothed leaflets that all grow from the same point on the stem, they are green during the growing season and turn an almost grey when shifting finally to wyellow in the Fall.  The flowers are a yellow-green with prominent stamens growing as upright spikes. The bark is dark grey with shallow but coarse fissures leading into square scaly plates. It flowers in the Spring and fruits from summer to fall.  This tree also produces small, shiny, dark brown nuts with a lighter tan patch




"Buckeyes" has been the official Ohio State nickname since 1950, but it had been in common use for many years before.  According to folklore, the Buckeye resembles the eye of a deer and carrying one brings good luck.




Recommended for Hardiness Zones 3-7, Buckeyes are found in larger nurseries within their growth range. 

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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Tamarind - Tamarindus indica

  The Tamarind - Tamarindus indica, is most easily identified by the combination of pinnate leaves, blackened trunk areas, zig zag limbs and variable sized and colored fruit.  The Tamarind is primarily an evergreen or semi deciduous tree that can reach heights of 65-100 feet or more.  The diameter in the United States tends to only reach 5 feet while in it's native range it has been reported as large in diameter as 25 feet.  It was introduced originally from tropical portions of Africa and India and has escaped cultivation and has established itself in Southern Florida.  


Image Citation: Chua Cheng Hong, Bugwood.org

The leaf of the Tamarind is alternate, pinnate and 7.5-15 cm long.  The leaflets are in 10-20 pairs even in numbers, oblong and oblique at the base and squared at the apex.  The upper leaf surface is dark green or yellow green in color.  The flowers are bisexual about 2.5 cm in diameter, 4 sepals, 3 petals yellow in color with pinkish streaks and crinkled margins appearing in Spring to early Summer.  


Image Citation: Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

A similar species the Wild Tamarind - Lysiloma latisiliquum, also has zig zag twigs and is similar in stature, however it's bark is a paler white-gray in color and it's plat, twisted pods do not vary in size. 

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Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Quaking Aspen - Populus tremuloides

  The Quaking Aspen - Populus tremuloides - is also called the Trembling Aspen, Golden Aspen or Mountain Aspen. With the smallest of breezes the leaves will flutter hence it's name. When fluttering the leaves even making an audible sound which would explain why the Onondagas called it the "nut-kie-e" which means noisy leaf. This tree has a very remarkable native range covering a majority of the Northern portion of the continent, ranging from New Foundland South to Delaware in the East and along the Coast of Alaska and British Columbia running South through the Rocky Mountains. Although it is not found in the South it does have one of the widest distributions of any tree in North America. It can be grown throughout hardiness zones 1-7. It is often times one of the first trees to appear after a Forest Fire. It is a fast grower often gaining 24 inches in a single season. Aspen wood Is used to make a variety of items such as wooden toys, tongue depressors, popsicle sticks, clothes pins, crates and even for paper pulp.





Image Citation (Stand): Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired), Bugwood.org

The leaves are rounded triangles with small teeth along the margins. The leaves are a glossy green above and dull below, during the Spring they change to a vivid Yellow or very rarely Red. They are arrranged alternately on the branches. Catkins are long and silvery and appear between April and May. In the late Spring, it's tiny seeds which are enclosed in cottony tufts are dispersed by the wind. The bark is a Greenish-White to Grey in color, it is often marked with black knots or horizontal scars.



Image Citation (Fall Foliage): Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The Aspen is a favorited food and shelter source for many different type of wildlife. The leaves and bark are eaten by Deer, Elk and Hare/Rabbits. The Buds are an important food source for Grouse during Winter. Beavers not only feed from the Aspen, they also use it's lumber as a building material. Many different birds and butterflies make their homes in these stands.


The Aspen holds the the title of largest living organisms on Earth, growing in clones/stand that reproduce primarily by sending up sprouts from their roots. For the most part each clone within a stand is connected to the next one through it's root system. One clone/stand in Utah (where it is the State tree) has been determined to have over 47,000 stems, this stand is estimated to weigh over 6,000 tons! While individually each stem lives 100-150 years, Aspen stands are one of the longest living organisms. One clone in Minnesota is estimated to be 8,000 years old, making it one of the longest living organism on Earth.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Horse Chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum

  The Horse Chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum, is only native to a very small area of Mountains between Greece and Albania- it was not discovered/recorded until 1596.  Once discovered it was rapidly planted and spread almost all over Europe in the early 1600's, then later by the early colonists of North America.  It is a very common street tree from Ontario to Virginia.  In the West it's spread ranges from British Columbia down through New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.  It is one of the more common street trees in the United States and has naturalized in most regions. Growing to heights of 50-75 feet at maturity, this tree can live upwards of 300 years so when planted correctly it can be considered a permanent addition to most landscapes.  It is recommended to be planted in hardiness zones 4-7

The name Horse Chestnut was thought to gain it's origin from the false belief that this tree was part of the Chestnut family, combined with the fact that despite the fruits being poisonous to horses they actually cured some chest related ailments when eaten by sick horses.  





Image Citations (Photos 1 & 2):Norbert Frank, University of West Hungary, Bugwood.org

Although the Horse Chestnut is sometimes confused with the closley related American Buckeye, that name is generally reserved for the North American members of the Aesculus genus.  The Horse Chestnut differs from the American Buckeyes because of it's shiny orange-brown terminal buds, bigger leaves on stalkless leaflets, 1 foot tall heads with predominently white flowers and very prickly husks that enclose the mahogany colored seeds.  Each individual flower opens to reveal a bright splash of yellow at the base of every petal, once pollinated this yellow turns a deeper orange and then finally a crimson red.




Image Citations (Photos 3 & 4) :Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

The flowers provide a rich source of nectar and pollen to insects, especially bees. Caterpillars of the triangle moth and horse chestnut leaf miner moth feed on the leaves. Deer and other mammals eat the conkers.  The most famous use of Horse Chestnut is in the game of conkers. The first record of the game is from the Isle of Wight in 1848.
The wood of the Horse Chestnut is soft and often considered weak.  It has a very straight light colored grain and is often used for wood turning, artificial limb production and wooden toy making.  This weakness can be considered a liability as mature trees in full leaf have been known to drop large branches without warning during heavy storms. 



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Monday, February 28, 2022

Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua

  The Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua, is a deciduous tree that reaches heights of up to 132 feet. It is most easily identified by it's palmately lobed, almost star shaped leaves and spiked fruiting balls (which are even called some not so nice names when an unknowing party steps on one). Generally Sweetgums grow in a upright fashion, with a single erect trunk with little branching on the lower 1/2, this is especially true when grown in woodland or forest areas. The Sweetgum is a member of the Altingiaceae family, this family has members in North and Central America, Southeast Asia and Turkey - it includes 2 genera and 13 species, only 1 that is native to the United States. The Sweetgum is also called to as Gum, Gum Ball, Monkey Ball, or Sweet Gum. 




Image Citation: Deena Sharon Chadi, Bank Street College of Education, Bugwood.org

The Sweetgum has grayish or green-gray bark that is finely or moderately fissured. The leaves are alternate and simple, palmate with 5-7 lobes, almost shaped like a star with a more flattened base. The upper portions of the leaves are usually lustrous and green, while the lower surface is more dull and paler in color. The flowers are absent of sepals and petals, the males are greenish-yellow in oblong clusters at the branch tips. Female flowers are paler green, occurring in ball-like dangling clusters. The fruit is made up of numerous capsules that are consolidated into a spiny ball. The balls are generally about 3 cm in diameter with stiff spines forming on the tips. These fruits are generally the biggest complaint when it comes to this species as they can be a hazard on the ground if stepped on or tripped over.



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

The Sweetgum is generally found in rich woods, slopes, fields, residential and urban landscapes, low woods, swamp margins and floodplains. It is native to the United States and can be found as far West as Texas in the South to Southern Illinois in the North continuing to the East Coast New Jersey and Maryland in the North and Central Florida in the South.




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

The American Sycamore also has ball like fruit, however they are not Spiked like the Sweetgum. The Japanese Maples leaves may be confused with the Sweetgum but the fruits are completely different (the Sweetgum having a spiky ball and the Maple having paired samara). The Sweetgum is an important tree to the Eastern landscape. It is recommended for hardiness zones 5-9.

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Friday, February 25, 2022

Black Willow - Salix nigra (also called Swamp Willow or Gooding Willow)

  The Black Willow - Salix nigra (also called Swamp Willow or Gooding Willow) is a moderately large deciduous tree that can reach heights of 60-100 feet tall. It prefers wet soils, moist bottom lands, swamps, marshlands or waters edge locations and is not tolerant of shade. The Black Willow is often short trunked with branches beginning low to the ground, often leaning or crooked in form. Black Willow is a common tree in the Eastern United States, it is best known for it's ability to control erosion and ability to sprout new growth from broken branches lodged along river/stream banks.




Image Citation: Bill Cook, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

The bark of the Black Willow thickens with age and changes from thin and red - brown to thick and brown - black. In the winter the tree offers color from it's long, shiny red-brown to burnt orange twigs. The leaves are alternate, simple in shape and bright green in color on both the upper and lower surfaces. Leaves are 4-6 inches long and less then 1/2 inch wide, the leaf edges are finely toothed from base to tip.



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

Recommended for hardiness zones 4-9, with a life span of 40-100 years.  The wood is light in density and moderately soft, it does not easily splinter.  Black Willow lumber is used for toys, crates and barn floors, but never as fine furniture.  Black willow is generally not recommended for use as a specimen in residential landscapes because of its susceptibility to breakage, potential insect and/or disease problems, need for soils that never dry out, litter problems, shallow spreading root system which may seek out water and/or sewer pipes, and mature size potential. In the right location, its shallow roots can act as a quality soil binder which provides excellent erosion control.  

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Thursday, February 24, 2022

Corkwood - Leiterneria floridana

  The Leitneriaceae Family currently only contains one single species, the Corkwood Leiterneria floridana.  The Corkwood is a very sporadically distributed species found only in Northern Florida, Southeastern Texas, Eastern Arkansas and the far Southeastern region of Missouri.  It is most commonly found growing in swamp areas, depressions, ponds, roadside ditches or bordering tidal marshes.  It is easily recognized in it's native regions by it's very upright form combined with elliptical leaves, catkins, and tan colored lenticels found within the red-brown bark.   The Leitneriaceae florida is included on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a "Near Threatened/Lower Risk" species because of its very small number (limited by a very small native range), thought they do not show a significant decline in the population.  Leiterneria floridana was only first discovered in 1835, in the saline marshes of Florida where the Apalachicola River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.





Image Citations (Photos 1 & 2) : John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

The Corkwood is a small deciduous tree or shrub that only averages 15 feet in height at maturity.  Corkwoods always grow in a very upright form and generally have one single straight trunk with a narrow crown containing very few branches.  The leaves appear in alternately in simple narrow elliptical form.  The upper portions of each leaf is lustrous, leathery and medium green in color, while the lower surface is a more dull pale green.  The leaves have fine hairs on the surface when young, becoming hairless when mature.  The foliage is among the most persistent of the deciduous autumn leaves, remaining green till late November (in the more northern portions of it's range), then becoming greenish-yellow. The flowers are unisex with male and female flowers on separate plants.  The male flowers appear in upright grey-brown catkins that are 2-5 cm long,  while the female appear in reddish catkins that are 1-2 cm long.  The fruit occurs in a single seeded ellipsoid drupe that is yellow-brown in color.  The wood of the Corkwood is very fitting to it's name as it is extremely lightweight.  The wood is often compared to balsa wood and can be used in similar applications.  Corkwood is the lightest weight of all of the native Eastern North American trees.  Portions of the trunk/stems have even been used to craft fishing floats.

The Corkwood - Leiterneria floridana is not the same as the shrub also commonly known as Corkwood - Stillingia aquatica (of the Euphorbiaceae family).  The genus, Corkwood Leiterneria floridana is thought by many researchers to be related to the similarly pollenated quassia family (Simaroubaceae), though they retain very unique and identifiable features that easily separate the two.

In Italy a single compressed endocarp was collected from the Villa San Faustino site in Italy.  This single specimen shows that until the Early Pleistoncene period Leitneria venosa grew there.  Leitnera is also listed as a species found within the early Pliocene San Gimiginiano flora. Several other similar endocarps have been found on other sites in Northern Italy dating all the way up to the Cenozoic period, though rare. These fossils shows that the Leiterneria family was not always made up of this one single species but had other members with possibly a greater range then the Leiterneria floridana.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Strawberry Tree - Arbutus unedo

  The "Strawberry" Tree - Arbutus unedo, is a small tree in the Ericaceae family, that is native to the Mediterranean Region & Western Europe including Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Eastern Italy, Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Ireland, and Southern France.  It is a large evergreen shrub or small tree only reaching an average height of only 30 feet, with very few found as tall as 50 feet.  It is sometimes called the Cane Apple, Irish or Killarney Strawberry Tree due to it's numbers in Ireland.  




Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Though it's name may lead you to believe otherwise it's fruits are not the Strawberry we all enjoy eating, those come from a common or garden Strawberry; Fragaria × ananassa which grows in a vine or bush form.  The fruit of the Strawberry tree is a red berry, that is rounded and only gets to be about 1–2 cm in diameter.  The surface of the berries are rough in appearance and texture. They mature in about 12 months during the Fall at the same time as the next flowers begin to appear. This fruit is also edible and when red is at it's sweetest.  The fruit is considered to be mealy in texture and boring in flavor by many and is often compared to a fig in flavor.  It can be used to make jams, jellys and liqueurs (Brandy and Riki). The trees are often planted as a Bee Plant for Honey production.  Other wildlife such as birds enjoy eating the small fruits.



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

The leaves are finely toothed and range in size from 2-4 inches long, they are pale green in color below and a glossy dark green above.  The flowers appear in drooping panicles usually containing 10-30 individual flowers each. They are usually white, rarely a pale pink and bell shaped. The flowers are Hermaphroditic meaning they contain both sexual organs required for reproduction.  

It can be grown in hardiness zones 4-9 and requires mild winters to be successful.  It grows best in well-drained soil and is very drought tolerant (prefers dry summers) and is well suited to California's climate.  Propagation can be successfully accomplished by seeds, cuttings, or layering and it can be trained as a large shrub, but it looks much better when grown as a small tree.

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Monday, February 21, 2022

Chinkapin (Chinquapin) Oak - Quercus muehlenbergii

  The Chinkapin (Chinquapin) Oak - Quercus muehlenbergii is a medium to large deciduous tree.  The name Chinkapin originated from the strong resemblance to the Allegheny Chinquapin Castanea pumila (a relative of the American Chestnut).   At full maturity the Chinkapin can reach heights of 70 feet with a broad and rounded crown.   It is a slow to moderate grower that does best in zones 3-9.  Although native to these zones, Chinkapin Oak is sporadic within its range and is seldom a dominant species in a woodland. Its common associates include White, Bur and Black Oaks, Ironwood, Red Cedar and Hickories. Chinkapin Oak prefers well drained soils, bottom-lands, limestone ridges, or along stream edges. It is also commonly found on bluffs, ridge tops, and rocky, south facing slopes. 





Image Citation (Photos 1& 2): Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, Bugwood.org 

The leaves are alternate, oval, elliptical, or oblong in shape, 4" to 6" long and 1.5" to 2" wide.  The leaf edges are sharply toothed in almost a serrated fashion.  Male and female flowers appear separately but on the same tree in Spring.  Male flowers borne on a yellowish catkin 3" to 4" long, while the female flowers are less conspicuous and reddish in color. The bark is light gray in color, with short, narrow flakes on the main trunk and limbs, and deep furrows on older trunks.  The wood of the Chinkapin Oak is heavy, hard, strong, and durable.  It is used for making barrels, fencing, fuel, and occasionally for furniture.




Image Citation (Photo 3 & 4): Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

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Friday, February 18, 2022

Black Maple - Acer nigrum (also called the Black Sugar Maple, Hard Maple, or Rock Maple)

  The Black Maple - Acer nigrum (also called the Black Sugar Maple, Hard Maple, or Rock Maple) is a medium sized deciduous tree that can reach heights of up to 80 feet tall.  The tree generally has a relatively short trunk with large rounded crown full of long upward reaching branches.  



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

The bark of the Black Maple is black to brown in color with a silver gray layer on top.  The trunk of the Black Maple is often fluted which gives the tree a rougher appearance.  The leaves are simple and grow opposite from one another, as opposed to being side by side.  The lobes are often coarsely toothed before ending in narrow blunted tips.  The upper leaf surface is smooth, dark green in color, wile the lower surface is lighter and duller in finish.  The leaves become yellow to yellow brown in the fall before falling off.  The leaf stalk or petiole is long and often fuzzy. The bodies of the paired fruit are joined at the stem with flat wings hanging down from each side.  





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


The Black Maple is very often confused with the Sugar Maple, with which it freely hybridizes.  Both the Black and Sugar Maple are tapped for Maple Syrup, planted as shade tree and sold in the commercial lumber market as hard Maple.  The Black Maple can be found growing from The Great Lakes in the North to Tennessee in the south.  


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



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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Slash Pine - Pinus elliottii

  The Slash Pine - Pinus elliottii is a tall, straight, deciduous tree that can reach heights of 60-100 feet on average.  Growing in an upright fashion, Slash Pine generally does not have lower limbs along the trunk but has a dense rounded crown.  It is native to the United States mainly in the South from South Eastern-South Carolina, throughout all of Florida, and along the Gulf Coast through Louisiana.  The Slash Pine is a rapid grower with a desirable form and natural resistance to southern Pine beetles, because of this it is widely planted along the coastal plain for timber production. 



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

The trunk of the Slash Pine is mainly limb free, covered with large, flat, purple-brown bark plates and topped by a dense rounded crown with dark green needles.  The needles are dark green, lustrous, stiff and 6-10 inches long in bundles of two or three.  The needles grow in clusters near the ends of otherwise bare orange-brown branches that resemble brooms.  The seeds are winged and borne in cones that range from 5-8 inches long and grow tilted back towards the trunks. 


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



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Monday, February 14, 2022

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, February 11, 2022

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, February 10, 2022

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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Tuesday, February 8, 2022

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, February 7, 2022

Quaking Aspen - Populus tremuloides

  The Quaking Aspen - Populus tremuloides - is also called the Trembling Aspen, Golden Aspen or Mountain Aspen. With the smallest of breezes the leaves will flutter hence it's name. When fluttering the leaves even making an audible sound which would explain why the Onondagas called it the "nut-kie-e" which means noisy leaf. This tree has a very remarkable native range covering a majority of the Northern portion of the continent, ranging from New Foundland South to Delaware in the East and along the Coast of Alaska and British Columbia running South through the Rocky Mountains. Although it is not found in the South it does have one of the widest distributions of any tree in North America. It can be grown throughout hardiness zones 1-7. It is often times one of the first trees to appear after a Forest Fire. It is a fast grower often gaining 24 inches in a single season. Aspen wood Is used to make a variety of items such as wooden toys, tongue depressors, popsicle sticks, clothes pins, crates and even for paper pulp.





Image Citation (Stand): Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired), Bugwood.org

The leaves are rounded triangles with small teeth along the margins. The leaves are a glossy green above and dull below, during the Spring they change to a vivid Yellow or very rarely Red. They are arrranged alternately on the branches. Catkins are long and silvery and appear between April and May. In the late Spring, it's tiny seeds which are enclosed in cottony tufts are dispersed by the wind. The bark is a Greenish-White to Grey in color, it is often marked with black knots or horizontal scars.



Image Citation (Fall Foliage): Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The Aspen is a favorited food and shelter source for many different type of wildlife. The leaves and bark are eaten by Deer, Elk and Hare/Rabbits. The Buds are an important food source for Grouse during Winter. Beavers not only feed from the Aspen, they also use it's lumber as a building material. Many different birds and butterflies make their homes in these stands.


The Aspen holds the the title of largest living organisms on Earth, growing in clones/stand that reproduce primarily by sending up sprouts from their roots. For the most part each clone within a stand is connected to the next one through it's root system. One clone/stand in Utah (where it is the State tree) has been determined to have over 47,000 stems, this stand is estimated to weigh over 6,000 tons! While individually each stem lives 100-150 years, Aspen stands are one of the longest living organisms. One clone in Minnesota is estimated to be 8,000 years old, making it one of the longest living organism on Earth.

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Friday, February 4, 2022

Horse Chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum

  The Horse Chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum, is only native to a very small area of Mountains between Greece and Albania- it was not discovered/recorded until 1596.  Once discovered it was rapidly planted and spread almost all over Europe in the early 1600's, then later by the early colonists of North America.  It is a very common street tree from Ontario to Virginia.  In the West it's spread ranges from British Columbia down through New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.  It is one of the more common street trees in the United States and has naturalized in most regions. Growing to heights of 50-75 feet at maturity, this tree can live upwards of 300 years so when planted correctly it can be considered a permanent addition to most landscapes.  It is recommended to be planted in hardiness zones 4-7



The name Horse Chestnut was thought to gain it's origin from the false belief that this tree was part of the Chestnut family, combined with the fact that despite the fruits being poisonous to horses they actually cured some chest related ailments when eaten by sick horses.  





Image Citations (Photos 1 & 2):Norbert Frank, University of West Hungary, Bugwood.org

Although the Horse Chestnut is sometimes confused with the closley related American Buckeye, that name is generally reserved for the North American members of the Aesculus genus.  The Horse Chestnut differs from the American Buckeyes because of it's shiny orange-brown terminal buds, bigger leaves on stalkless leaflets, 1 foot tall heads with predominently white flowers and very prickly husks that enclose the mahogany colored seeds.  Each individual flower opens to reveal a bright splash of yellow at the base of every petal, once pollinated this yellow turns a deeper orange and then finally a crimson red.




Image Citations (Photos 3 & 4) :Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

The flowers provide a rich source of nectar and pollen to insects, especially bees. Caterpillars of the triangle moth and horse chestnut leaf miner moth feed on the leaves. Deer and other mammals eat the conkers.  The most famous use of Horse Chestnut is in the game of conkers. The first record of the game is from the Isle of Wight in 1848.
The wood of the Horse Chestnut is soft and often considered weak.  It has a very straight light colored grain and is often used for wood turning, artificial limb production and wooden toy making.  This weakness can be considered a liability as mature trees in full leaf have been known to drop large branches without warning during heavy storms. 



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Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua

  The Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua, is a deciduous tree that reaches heights of up to 132 feet. It is most easily identified by it's palmately lobed, almost star shaped leaves and spiked fruiting balls (which are even called some not so nice names when an unknowing party steps on one). Generally Sweetgums grow in a upright fashion, with a single erect trunk with little branching on the lower 1/2, this is especially true when grown in woodland or forest areas. The Sweetgum is a member of the Altingiaceae family, this family has members in North and Central America, Southeast Asia and Turkey - it includes 2 genera and 13 species, only 1 that is native to the United States. The Sweetgum is also called to as Gum, Gum Ball, Monkey Ball, or Sweet Gum. 




Image Citation: Deena Sharon Chadi, Bank Street College of Education, Bugwood.org

The Sweetgum has grayish or green-gray bark that is finely or moderately fissured. The leaves are alternate and simple, palmate with 5-7 lobes, almost shaped like a star with a more flattened base. The upper portions of the leaves are usually lustrous and green, while the lower surface is more dull and paler in color. The flowers are absent of sepals and petals, the males are greenish-yellow in oblong clusters at the branch tips. Female flowers are paler green, occurring in ball-like dangling clusters. The fruit is made up of numerous capsules that are consolidated into a spiny ball. The balls are generally about 3 cm in diameter with stiff spines forming on the tips. These fruits are generally the biggest complaint when it comes to this species as they can be a hazard on the ground if stepped on or tripped over.



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

The Sweetgum is generally found in rich woods, slopes, fields, residential and urban landscapes, low woods, swamp margins and floodplains. It is native to the United States and can be found as far West as Texas in the South to Southern Illinois in the North continuing to the East Coast New Jersey and Maryland in the North and Central Florida in the South.




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

The American Sycamore also has ball like fruit, however they are not Spiked like the Sweetgum. The Japanese Maples leaves may be confused with the Sweetgum but the fruits are completely different (the Sweetgum having a spiky ball and the Maple having paired samara). The Sweetgum is an important tree to the Eastern landscape. It is recommended for hardiness zones 5-9.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Corkwood - Leiterneria floridana

  The Leitneriaceae Family currently only contains one single species, the Corkwood Leiterneria floridana.  The Corkwood is a very sporadically distributed species found only in Northern Florida, Southeastern Texas, Eastern Arkansas and the far Southeastern region of Missouri.  It is most commonly found growing in swamp areas, depressions, ponds, roadside ditches or bordering tidal marshes.  It is easily recognized in it's native regions by it's very upright form combined with elliptical leaves, catkins, and tan colored lenticels found within the red-brown bark.   The Leitneriaceae florida is included on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a "Near Threatened/Lower Risk" species because of its very small number (limited by a very small native range), thought they do not show a significant decline in the population.  Leiterneria floridana was only first discovered in 1835, in the saline marshes of Florida where the Apalachicola River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.





Image Citations (Photos 1 & 2) : John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

The Corkwood is a small deciduous tree or shrub that only averages 15 feet in height at maturity.  Corkwoods always grow in a very upright form and generally have one single straight trunk with a narrow crown containing very few branches.  The leaves appear in alternately in simple narrow elliptical form.  The upper portions of each leaf is lustrous, leathery and medium green in color, while the lower surface is a more dull pale green.  The leaves have fine hairs on the surface when young, becoming hairless when mature.  The foliage is among the most persistent of the deciduous autumn leaves, remaining green till late November (in the more northern portions of it's range), then becoming greenish-yellow. The flowers are unisex with male and female flowers on separate plants.  The male flowers appear in upright grey-brown catkins that are 2-5 cm long,  while the female appear in reddish catkins that are 1-2 cm long.  The fruit occurs in a single seeded ellipsoid drupe that is yellow-brown in color.  The wood of the Corkwood is very fitting to it's name as it is extremely lightweight.  The wood is often compared to balsa wood and can be used in similar applications.  Corkwood is the lightest weight of all of the native Eastern North American trees.  Portions of the trunk/stems have even been used to craft fishing floats.

The Corkwood - Leiterneria floridana is not the same as the shrub also commonly known as Corkwood - Stillingia aquatica (of the Euphorbiaceae family).  The genus, Corkwood Leiterneria floridana is thought by many researchers to be related to the similarly pollenated quassia family (Simaroubaceae), though they retain very unique and identifiable features that easily separate the two.

In Italy a single compressed endocarp was collected from the Villa San Faustino site in Italy.  This single specimen shows that until the Early Pleistoncene period Leitneria venosa grew there.  Leitnera is also listed as a species found within the early Pliocene San Gimiginiano flora. Several other similar endocarps have been found on other sites in Northern Italy dating all the way up to the Cenozoic period, though rare. These fossils shows that the Leiterneria family was not always made up of this one single species but had other members with possibly a greater range then the Leiterneria floridana.

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Friday, January 28, 2022

Chinkapin (Chinquapin) Oak - Quercus muehlenbergii

  The Chinkapin (Chinquapin) Oak - Quercus muehlenbergii is a medium to large deciduous tree.  The name Chinkapin originated from the strong resemblance to the Allegheny Chinquapin Castanea pumila (a relative of the American Chestnut).   At full maturity the Chinkapin can reach heights of 70 feet with a broad and rounded crown.   It is a slow to moderate grower that does best in zones 3-9.  Although native to these zones, Chinkapin Oak is sporadic within its range and is seldom a dominant species in a woodland. Its common associates include White, Bur and Black Oaks, Ironwood, Red Cedar and Hickories. Chinkapin Oak prefers well drained soils, bottom-lands, limestone ridges, or along stream edges. It is also commonly found on bluffs, ridge tops, and rocky, south facing slopes. 





Image Citation (Photos 1& 2): Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, Bugwood.org 

The leaves are alternate, oval, elliptical, or oblong in shape, 4" to 6" long and 1.5" to 2" wide.  The leaf edges are sharply toothed in almost a serrated fashion.  Male and female flowers appear separately but on the same tree in Spring.  Male flowers borne on a yellowish catkin 3" to 4" long, while the female flowers are less conspicuous and reddish in color. The bark is light gray in color, with short, narrow flakes on the main trunk and limbs, and deep furrows on older trunks.  The wood of the Chinkapin Oak is heavy, hard, strong, and durable.  It is used for making barrels, fencing, fuel, and occasionally for furniture.




Image Citation (Photo 3 & 4): Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

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