Welcome back to and or welcome to Jordan’s Botany Blog! Lets dive in shall we? Take a minute and close your eyes. Now imagine your favorite outdoor place, picture it and focus on the natural scenery in particular. What do you see? Well you obviously cannot tell me, but I am going to assume that there is at least one commonality between your place and the next person’s, and that is TREES!! Now I am sure there are some places that someone is imagining that doesn’t have trees, but I would bet that many do. Now imagine that same place…. but without any trees! No trees whatsoever! I do not know about you all but that greatly changes the way my favorite outdoor place looks. Trees are everywhere but most people don’t know one from the other or never pay attention to them. Well now that we have all pictured somewhere we love without trees lets very briefly jump into a few different trees that I encountered during my walk close to the river the other day and have some fun with them!
First up to bat…. Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)
These guys are rather special around where I live. They exhibit opposite branching and are of the fewer species to do so. Opposite branching means that the leaves and branches occur opposite of each other, the branches are bilaterally symmetric. Their leaves are special because they are palmate, meaning the leaflets (the green leafy things that make up the actual leaf) all come from a single point and grow out as if they started in the palm of your hand.
The bark is rather smooth and light gray that later becomes rougher as it matures. They also have a distinct very large round terminal bud and are actually one of the first trees to leaf in spring! Unfortunately the branches give off a rather skunky smell when crushed which is rather interesting and quite gross! Pictured below is a mature group of buckeyes.
Fun fact about our buckeye friends….. Native Americans actually would ground buckeye into a powder to mix into ponds to stun fish! Talk about cheating at fishing, which I would be offended by (insert me sarcastically laughing)!
Now for number 2…. Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
Hackberry unlike the buckeye above has the opposite branching pattern. So the opposite of opposite branching is… alternate (that makes sense right?)! This tree also has a different type of leaf complexity too and that complexity is that it’s not complex at all but simple! You can see the leaf arrangement below.
The leaves above feel cool too due to their sandpaper texture. The bark is really weird because it has numerous large warts which make it very obvious to point out! Below you can see what I mean, it is really obvious. So now you can certainly point out one tree on your next walk!
So what is Hackberry used for anyway? It is often included in projects to control wind erosion and Hackberry has a very deep root system makes it very useful for being planted on disturbed sites to prevent soil erosion.
And our 3rd tree friend…. Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
Silver Maple unlike our Hackberry but like our Buckeye has opposite branching with simple leaves with deep sinuses as seen below. These leaves also show a distinct character by being very light almost silver colored on the underside of the leaf.
Pictured below is the gray thin bark that becomes scaly and shaggy when mature. Maples are also characterized by the things you always see on the ground that you called helicopters and picked up and threw to watch them spin down. Those are called samaras, now you know!
Fun fact…. The sap has been used for kidney and liver ailments and also as a cough syrup and the heartwood swirls inside the tree and when harvested is sold as ‘birds eye maple’ due to its unique pattern.
We are halfway though introducing our tree friends with number 4…. Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Let us start off with a fun fact about Black Cherry…. Black cherry is often used for reclamation of surface mine spoil and it is used widely for furniture and woodworking and has beautiful wood!
Black Cherry has a bark like no other (pictured below) and can often be identified just by its very dark scaly plated bark when mature. Some say it looks like burnt potato chips, but I would not recommend eating it!
The leaves as seen below of Black Cherry are delicate looking and just small simple leaves finely serrated leaves arranged alternately along the slender branches. A cool thing about these leaves is their tendency to have red-orange hairs along the midrib underside of the leaf.
We now welcome contestant number 5…. White Ash (Fraxinus americana)
White Ash is another one of our oppositely branched species, but unlike the two previous species this one has pinnate leaves meaning the leaflets (from earlier that is our leaf like things that make up the leaf) occur oppositely from each other on the whole leaf often with one on the tip and there usually being seven leaflets per leaf as seen below.
White ash also is known for their cute small buds that look like a mini chocolate chip and their diamond shaped ridged bark! Unfortunately it is often harder to see these species of a larger size due to them being devastated by an invasive bug. Pictured below is the common sizes to see them.
Fun fact: Native Americans would juice the leaves to use as relieve for mosquito bites from itching and swelling. They like another one of our species today have their seeds in the form of samaras.
Tree number 6…. American Elm (Ulmus americana)
American Elm is serrated simple leafed tree with alternate branching and leaves that have an uneven base which is not often common across trees (pictured below).
The really interesting thing to me is the bark! American Elm bark develops furrows as it ages and has this corky spongy like feel to it which is oddly satisfying to press and rather odd considering you would guess bark is hard! You can see the bark below but I encourage you to find one of these trees and feel it for yourself.
A very interesting use of elm when it was more plentiful, before the species was greatly impacted by a disease (known as Dutch elm disease) the wood being used for rockers on rocking chairs.
We are almost done with introducing our trees with lucky number 7…. Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
Eastern Cottonwood is an alternate branched tree with simple serrated triangular shaped leaves as seen below. I am not sure if it is clear, but these leaves also have a flat petiole (basically the stem of the leaf) which causes the leaves to often tremble in the wind.
These trees exhibit very rapid growth and as they mature their bark goes from smooth greenish grey to very deep furrowed ridged bark. The picture below shows a large mature tree.
These trees are often used as a shade trees due to its size and rapid growth and when harvested is used as high-grade pulp tree! What is a pulp tree you ask? A pulp tree is used for making pulp that is used in the paper making process!
Last but certainly the most bad tree on the list number 8…. Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
Honeylocust are such cool trees and are a bit different in some aspects from the trees above. One thing these trees have that others do not on this list is doubly pinnate or bi-pinnate leaves (pictured below). This means their leaves are very complex having sets of leaflets opposite (but alternate) each other and then there are multiple sets of leaflets that look like leaves opposite (but actually alternate) each other to then comprise the leaf. The picture sums it up better than I can for sure!
These trees are alternately branched and have a bark that is dark and scaly and also has a characteristic that makes them look like one mean tree. These trees produce thorns and often a lot of them that aggressively stick out from the trunk and branches of the tree. You can see below that these trees are not to be messed with! The picture below the the deathly thorns is another feature of Honeylocust and that is their seed pods known as a legume.
The wood of Honeylocust was formally valued and used as bows. It has been used for furniture and shipping crates in the past but never became an economic resource due to its scarcity on the landscape.
So, that concludes our short list of trees for today. The trees listed were all trees I found on a walk I took last weekend next to a small river. All these species fall within floodplain or lowland species which makes sense where I found them (I found them in a floodplain). Trees are very diverse and some are well adapted for various types of habitat and it is amazing to find them in all sort of locations. These are very short descriptions and characters of these trees. I left out lots of great details (so not to make this too overbearing) that are very interesting and informative (form, buds, bud scars, special adaptations, habitat, etc.) for these trees and I absolutely encourage you to click on the links provided and read more about these species where I pulled the information from! More than anything I encourage you all to get outside and seek out your own species to discover and research and become friends with! Thank you all for reading!