Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hickory in bloom

Of my two pignut hickories, I chose the smaller to observe for Nature's Notebook because it had a branch low enough to reach.  That would enable me to keep a close eye on flower and fruit development.  --if the tree flowers, which it didn't this year.  It's larger neighbor, on the other hand, flowered nicely, but could only be observed through binoculars.  I had never seen hickory flowers up close, and could only study them in books.

A few days ago I looked on the ground under the big tree for fallen male catkins--they would tell me they were about done flowering.  I did see some, but I also discovered the work of an Evil Squirrel.

Sometimes in spring I find whole twigs with seemingly healthy leaves and flowers lying on the ground.  I have seen this in oaks and maples, and now hickory.  I finally decided that squirrels were cutting them and letting them fall for some nefarious and squirrelly purposes unknown to me.  I call it Evil since it seems the squirrels aren't doing if for food (unless they are extremely clumsy and careless eaters), nor nesting material, and the fallen twigs simply lie on the ground and die, wasted.

But this particular time an evil squirrel had chosen a hickory twig, and enabled me to see hickory flowers up close for the first time.  I may, temporarily begrudge this squirrel the title "blessed."  Soon I may begin following the bigger tree for Nature's Notebook.

The whole twig laid atop the appropriate page in my copy of Gleason & Cronquist* 

The prolific male flowers are in long catkins.

Each male flower is surrounded not by proper petals or sepals, but an irregular "perianth," 
and stamens vary in number from 3 to 10.  (I counted 7 in several flowers.) 

The female flowers are few, larger, and green; they will grow to become hickory nuts.
Two female flowers or developing fruits are visible: one just above and left of center, the other at far left against a leaf.

Carya is the Latin name of hickories.  The paragraph describes them in botanical jargon.
The page below details the species Carya glabra--the pignut hickory.

*Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, second edition, 1991, by the late Henry A. Gleason and Arthur Cronquist, if you must know.

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