Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eastern Redbud

Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis (Winter)
One of the first trees to bloom in spring, Eastern redbud can be found throughout a large portion of the eastern and central portions of North America. It may grow up to 9 m (30 ft) in either full sun or partial shade. As a native, this deciduous tree can tolerate many soils including exposed limestone cliffs and clay. The pink blooms in early spring are followed by flattened seedpods that may remain on the tree through winter. In autumn, the leaves turn to shades of yellow.

Bark of Eastern redbud.
Eastern redbud is of significant importance to wildlife as well as native American tribes. Hummingbirds and butterflies consume the nectar of the flowers while bees use the pollen. The foliage and twigs are consumed by deer while the buds, bark, and seeds may be consumed by squirrels. Additionally, Bobwhite quail and songbirds will also consume the seeds. Many native tribes boiled the bark for its astringent effect to treat dysentery and whooping cough. The roots as well as the inner bark were also consumed to treat fevers, congestion, and vomiting. As a food source, the flowers were sometimes fried and consumed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Peach, Prunus  persica  (likely Bonfire cultivar)
Peach trees are low, broad trees reaching heights of up to 7.5 m (25 ft) tall although some cultivars do not grow beyond 1.5 m (5 ft). They have fragrant, pink blooms in early spring and colorful yellow foliage in fall. Although native to Asia, they can be found throughout a large portion of southern, eastern, and western North America either for the fruit, as use in parking lots, or to provide screening due to dense foliage.

Bark of peach tree
The fruit is edible, but the tree has toxins found within the wilted leaves, twigs, and seeds. Although able to tolerate partial shade and various soils, peach trees are plagued by a variety of diseases and pests. Aphids, borers, and spider mites as well as tent caterpillars are a few arthropods that regularly attack peach trees. Various bacterium, fungus, and galls are also an issue for this tree as well as frost and root rot.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Callery Pear

Callery pear, Pyrus calleryana
Callery pear has been imported into the United States from China multiple times since 1909, first to develop fire blight resistance in the common pear, and then as an ornamental. Many different cultivars of Callery pear have since been bred including the common Bradford pear. They are very adaptable and grow fast with the Bradford variety able to reach heights up to 15 m (50 ft). Once established, Callery pear forms dense thickets. They easily push out natives by shading them and taking their water, soil, and space.

Bark of Callery Pear
The Callery pear, with Bradford as one of the most common, is often sought for its fragrant lacking, but beautiful white blooms in spring as well as its colorful fall foliage; however, it is consider invasive in many parts of the country. It is also an incredible short-lived tree that is very susceptible to limb breakage by either ice or strong wind. For that reason, it is discouraged as a plant in the Midwest not only due to its invasive potential, but also it's susceptibility.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mexican Plum

Flowering Mexican plum, Prunus mexicana
Mexican plum is a small tree that reaches heights of up to 8 m (25 ft) ranging along the southern United States into Mexico. In early spring, fragrant white flowers bloom and in fall, dark red edible plums are produced on an orange-leaved tree. The bark is initially smooth and reddish brown, but later becomes rough with irregular ridges. The leaves have a serrated margin that can also be used to help with identification.

Bark of a mature Mexican plum tree.
When established, Mexican plum is drought-tolerant and can tolerate partial shade. Unlike other native plums, the Mexican plum does not form thickets and grows singly. The fruits are consumed by various mammals and birds alike, and the flowers attract birds and butterflies. Species such as the tiger swallowtail and cecropia moths also use Mexican plum as a host plant.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rusty Blackhaw

Rusty Blackhaw, Viburnum rufidulum
Rusty Blackhaw is a native shrub, or small tree depending on its environment, that grows along the southeastern portions of the United States. It often grows as an understory tree reaching simple heights of 3 m (10 ft) or a larger 9 m (30 ft) tree if provided with more sunlight and room to grow. In autumn, the leaves are often a shade of pink or dark purple. In spring, clusters of white flowers bloom. It is relatively tolerant of drought and shade, and it is usually pest-free.

Bark of Rusty Blackhaw.
The freshly opening vegetative buds are found with rusty hairs covering it giving it its common name rusty blackhaw, although it may also be called Southern blackhaw, bluehaw, nannyberry, or rusty nannyberry. The elliptic, blue berries produced in autumn are edible and are also commonly consumed by wildlife, particular various bird species. Butterflies and bees also benefit from the blooms in spring. The bark was made into a tea and consumed by some native tribes for menstrual symptoms as well as for rheumatism.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Silver Maple

Trimmed Silverleaf Maple, Acer saccharinum
Silver Maple is a rapidly growing tree of medium height, growing up to 24 m (80 ft), that may live up to 130 years. Other common names include soft maple, river maple, silverleaf maple, water maple, white maple, and swamp maple. While its native range is along the east coast of North America, it has been readily introduced for landscaping purposes in other states as well as near the Black Sea coast. It is best suited for sunny areas with adequate moisture such as near streams, lake fringes, and small depressions.

Bark of Silverleaf Maple.
Although the wood is brittle and doesn't stand well to ice or high winds, it is easily worked into a variety of items including musical instruments, carts, rails, and furniture. Due to being one of the few species with a fast growth rate, it is also a serious consideration for biofuel. Many birds consume the abundant seeds, beavers and deer consume the bark, and as a tree prone to nest cavities, it also houses a number of species inclucing raccoons, squirrels, woodpeckers, and owls. Native Americans used the sap for a variety of remedies from cramps and dysentery to venereal diseases and as a diuretic. The sap was also commonly used as sugar, for fermentation, breads, dyes, and basketry.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Honey Locust

Honey Locust, Gleditsia triacanthos
Although naturally occurring mainly in the eastern-central portions of the United States, honey locust can be found throughout a large portion of North America. This moderately fast growing tree may also be referred to as sweet-locust or thorny-locust. The wood is hardy and the tree very drought resistant. A honey locust tree may grow up to 24 m (80 ft) tall and live to be over 100 years of age, although fruit crops usually stop around that time period.
Bark of honey locust tree.
The common name thorny-locust is for the characteristic large, sharp thorns that may be found on the lower trunk and limb sprouts. The other common names honey locust, or sweet-locust, comes for the sweet, edible pulp and seeds of this particular species. The dried pulp served as a sweetening agent for many Native American tribes and was sometimes fermented to make alcohol. The seeds were a minor food source often dried or roasted and sometimes as a coffee substitute. The pods are now more often consumed by a variety of wildlife and livestock. Many pollinating insects are also drawn to the flowers. The wood of the tree is commonly used in the timber industry as it is durable when in contact with soil, and it is capable of obtaining a high luster finish.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Eastern Red Cedar

One of two distinct growth forms of Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana
Eastern red cedar, a member of the cypress family and a native juniper, can be found throughout the eastern and central portions of the United States and southern Canada, and in Oregon. Although relatively free of pests, eastern red cedar can be a host for cedar-apple rust disease that can damage other species. Some specimens are estimated to be over 450 years old. They can grow up to 20 m (65 ft) and tolerate a wide range of conditions, especially drought. For some areas, especially prairie regions with fire suppression, eastern red cedar can easily become invasive.

Bark of Eastern Red Cedar.
Although not generally considered an important commercial species, Eastern red cedar is valued for a number of reasons. The wood is preferred for its beauty, durability, and workability. A common fragrance compound, cedarwood oil, is obtained from Eastern red cedar. Many tribes use the incense in purification and ritual, and often symbolize eastern red cedar as the tree of life. The berries, actually modified cones, are used to flavor gin, but also as a tea by some tribes to stop vomiting. Certain Native American tribes would also make a tea from the leaves and roots for other ailments and aids. Wildlife often use junipers for shelter, consume the twigs and foliage, and eat the berries. Cedar waxwings in particular prefer the cedar berries while sparrows are common nesting birds within junipers.