Friday, May 29, 2015

Spring 3e: Ash and Hickories

 Ashes and hickories are alike in having pinnate compound leaves--compound because each leaf is composed of leaflets, pinnate because these leaflets are arranged on either side of a leaf-stem, rather than fan-like as in Virginia creeper or marijuana.  (You can tell a compound leaf because the bud will be at the base of the whole thing, and all of it will drop off in the fall.)  But the leaves of ash are opposite each other on the twig, while hickories have alternate leaves.

The more I look, the more white ash trees I find around here.  Fraxinus americana is a majestic, tall, straight-trunked tree when it reaches its full growth, but not showy otherwise.  Only when I discovered a few little seedlings in the woods near mine, did I first realize there must be another nearby--it takes two to tango, after all, among plants just as animals.  Only this spring did I find a tree with a low enough branch to look at flowers close-up--before that I relied on binoculars or telescope, with indifferent success.  These close-ups come from two neighbors at the high school, the medium-range from a third tree, and the last couple from my own large tree. White ash is generally dioecious (trees either male or female); all pictured are male except for my own.  White ash nationwide is in grave danger from the introduced beetle, Emerald Ash Borer, which is spreading here from its point of introduction in the midwest.  EAB was reported from the Boston area last season, so it's either here, or will be this season.

Photos: May 1st, 8th (4), 11th,13th (my tree through telescope),
16th, and two of my tree.

Pignut hickory (Carya glabra) is common in the neighborhood and I have a couple of my own.

Photos: May 4th (2), 5th (2), 8th, 11th, 16th, 19th (2), 23rd (2) and 26th.
All but the third and fourth are from a single tree.

I know of no other shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) in the neighborhood, but the nuts it bore proudly last year prove there must be one--and probably close by, since hickories (like ashes) are wind-pollinated.  This tree is distinguished by bark that splits off the trunk in long, hard strips.  The tree threw me a curve a few days ago: after watching the prominent catkins for weeks for any sign of flowering, the tree suddenly shed spent male catkins in large numbers.  I was left to pore over old photos to see what I'd missed.  Only in a photo from the day before did I see a tell-tale lengthening of a catkin that presages flowering.  But flowering needs about a week!  I remain mystified.

Photos: May 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, 11th, 13th,
16th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 26th, and 27th.
  All are of the same branch. 

Almost done with Spring 3!  Last up is a grab bag of species noticed along the way.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spring 3d: Basswood and the Birches

Basswood (Tilia americana) is also known as linden.  Although several I know of grow in the neighborhood, all the photos are of one tree.  A branch growing adventitiously from the trunk is low enough for close-ups, but this leafed out days ahead of the crown, so I also took photos of a higher branch.   As of today, 5/27, the flowers have yet to bloom.  Each little cluster of flowers hangs beneath a long, pale bract; in the fall each cluster of fruit will be launched beneath its own little hang glider.

May 1st 

May 4th

May 5th

May 7th

May 11th

May 13th

May 16th

May 19th

May 21st

May 23rd

 May 26th

Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) is really a more northern tree, but it's planted in yards, like the two trees here.  It lowered from about May 6th (earlier?) to the 12th when the male catkins fell.

May 1st, 4th, 7th (2),
 11th, 13th, 16th and 21st.

Gray Birch (Betula populifolia) is a fast-growing and short-lived tree common in oldfields.  The tree here is in a yard.  It flowered from about May 7th to the 22nd when the male catkins fell.

Photos May 1st, 5th, 7th, 11th,
13th, 16th, 21st, 23rd and 26th.

I first met river birch (Betula nigra) in Georgia, where a specimen with the distinctive peeling pink bark grew outside UGa's Plant Science Building.  I was startled to meet with it again so far north.  Although largely a southern tree, its range reaches s e NY, and even the s e corner of New Hampshire.  [5/29: This tree pulled a fast one on me: after weeks of waiting for it to flower, I plucked what I though was an immature flower cluster only to discover it had maturing seeds inside!  It seems to have flowered weeks ago, but I never saw flowering catkins until I went back and studied the earliest photos--you can see them in the background lower right quadrant of the second photo.]

Photos May 5th (2), 11th (2), 16th,
19th, 21st (2), 23rd (2) and 26th.

Hard to believe this still isn't the end of Spring 3!  Next up: ash and hickories!