Saturday, February 23, 2013

More Winter Trees

Since it is still a little early to start creating the beds for the vegetable garden I've had time to take a closer look at some of the trees out back.  With the leaf buds beginning to swell there is enough information on the twigs to do some identification.  Our new property is blessed with a number of hickory trees.  In my last post I showed a photo of the terminal bud of a Mockernut Hickory (Carya alba).  This past week I found that there were at least two other species of hickories.

The Pignut has smaller leaf scars than the Mockernut.

The first one I noticed had a much more ovate terminal bud than the Mockernut Hickory, and the leaf scars were more like a rounded off equilateral triangle.  Again, I turned to Trees of New York State for help in narrowing down the choices.  Based on the detailed descriptions in the text I feel pretty confident that this one is a Pignut Hickory, Carya glabra.

Not far from the Pignut was another type of hickory.  The leaf scars on this one were triangular with raised edges.  What stands out is the bright yellow buds and the orangy color of the year old twigs.  This one was easy to find in the key since only Bitternut Hickory, Carya cordiformis, has the yellow leaf buds.

Yellow leaf buds and the raised leaf scars indicate that this is a Bitternut Hickory

As I was taking these photos I noticed some branches where the leaf buds were opposite on another on the twig, rather than on alternate sides moving along the twig.  There are only 6 genera of native trees with this opposite branching:  Maples, Ash, Catalpa, Buckeye, Dogwood and Viburnum.  When I see this opposite branching pattern I usually think of maples, but the terminal leaf buds on this branch were not as pronounced as on maples.  To help with this ID challenge I turned to The Tree Identification Book, by George Symonds.  A quick review of the twig photos brought me to this being some type of Ash tree.  I'm pretty sure that this is a White Ash, Fraxinus americana.  I settled on that because the twigs were smooth and not fuzzy (F. pensylvanica); and the leaf scars are concave at the top rather than straight across (F. nigra).

White Ash has smooth, hairless twigs, a blunt terminal bud and the leaf scars are concave at the top (arrow).

 An easy tree to identify in the field is the American Beech, Fagus grandifolia.  In this photo you can see the elongated leaf buds.  Other indicators over the winter are the persistent dried leaves and the smooth gray bark.
Leaf buds of the American Beech 'stick out'.
Looking down at the ground level I had been perplexed by a small leafy plant that was just sprouting up last fall.  I was unfamiliar with it and just assumed that it was badly confused by the warm weather.  As I was deciding on plants to order for this spring I came across a description of a spring ephemeral that matched up with this little plant.  This appears to be Toothwort, Dentaria diphylla.  I will need to keep an eye out for the little 4-petaled white flowers this spring.  I only found one patch, but I hope I have some others.

Toothwort, a spring ephemeral is a member of the Mustard (Brassicacae) Family.

While walking back to the house I noticed a lot of little white flowers blooming in the lawn.  Many aspects of this plant were familiar, but I could not put a name to it.  I ended up digging one up for closer examination with a hand lens.  The flowers had 4 petals so I immediately thought of the mustard family.  I ended up using Gleason and Conquist to key it out as Cardamine hirsuta, Hairy Bittercress.  This is an Old World plant that is now found in 2/3 of the US.  It is a winter annual that germinates in the fall and overwinters as a rosette.  It blooms from early spring and through the summer.  While edible, the leaves on mine are very small, so it would take a lot if picking to make a salad.

Hairy Bittercress has tiny hairs on the leaves and petioles visible with a hand lens.


Laurrie said...

Great detective work. It must be fun to have all your new property to roam and all these little surprises to find and figure out. And it's nice to discover treasures like hickories growing around you.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post!

Anonymous said...


They're not native plants, but I recently found out it is illegal to grow breadseed poppies in my yard because of the drug laws.

A lot of people already grow these poppies, and they're the same as papaver somniferum, but I doubt they're all heroin addicts...just gardeners.

I created a whitehouse petition to ask the government to update the regulations to allow gardeners to legally grow these in non-heroin-distributing quantities.

I'd love it if you would sign my petition or spread the word:

Mike Whittemore said...

Well done! I always love to ID trees, shrubs, and vines in winter by twig and bud. I have a post dedicated on hickory bud identification. You should scroll down to check it out on my blog sometime. Nice blog!

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