Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday's Trees- Burr Oak, Quercus macrocarpa

A couple weeks ago we took a drive to the next county to check on one of our antique clocks. Most of our outings turn into adventures, this is no exception. We came across a sign that indicated an Indian grave site and we thought we would check it out.

We never found the exact place but did find a sign telling about the Cherokee in this area. Historical markers tell the tale. Interesting link.

ANYHOW, while we were driving around we saw this neat old church. After we looked at the church (from the truck) I had Charlie drive around the front of the driveway again. Something caught my eye. It was this fern, growing in the tree, green! in the beginning of February. I took pictures of the fern and tried to research it, thinking it was a tree fern.  It wasn't so I did what anyone would do, send the pictures to my friendly fern expert. This fern is an epiphyte, growing on the tree but not taking nutrients from the tree. It is a Resurrection fern, Polypodium polypodioides. Amazingly it is hardy zones 6- 11. Floridata has some good information about this cool fern.  Thanks Jim!

I know what you are thinking, this is a tree posting, where is the tree?
Well the fern was in the tree!! The tree was an oak, kind of gnarly...probably close to 100 years old.  Turns out this was a Bur(r) oak, Quercus macrocarpa.  The bark is gray to brown and in older trees the scaly bark becomes vertical longer ridges.  In making my identification I wasn't sure (100%) about my first assessment that it was a Bur Oak as the twigs have corky wings, similar to the Sweetgum or Winged Elm.
From the photos I had, none of the twigs showed signs of corky ridges. The leaves had rounded lobes, check.
The Bur Oak is in the white oak family, rounded lobes. The leaves I am sharing are from last year, those who hang on to the end of winter. In the spring/summer I will go back and get some green leaf photos. The leaves cluster at the branch tips, another white oak characteristic.

The tree is monoecious and the fruit is one of its most striking features. The acorn is a good food source for the animals and birds of its forest. Here is what I first saw of this noted fruit--
Not impressed? Just look at the size of this acorn!

This tree doesn't usually produce seed until it is about 35 years old, with the best years between the ages 75- 150 years.  It can continue to produce seed/ fruit well into the 400th  year.  Pretty amazing. 

The mature size of this tree is 80 feet but there are some larger ones in the Ohio River valley.  It is a slow grower and lives upwards of 400 years.  The shape of the mature tree is wide and spreading canopy and is a wonderful shade tree.The native range is the Eastern part of North America, though it was planted across the Great Plains.  It is grown in various sights, depending soils, it could be a bottom lands tree or uplands or limestone ridges.  The Silvics Manual has a detailed account of growing conditions.  My other 'go-to' reference is VTech dendrology publications.

The wood is prized for lumber uses, often sold as white oak. 

 The tree is a native though not really one of the south.  It is hardy zones 3-8.  After sourcing the fern to my friend in Virginia, I took the acorn to my Cooperative Extension agent, a forester.  He confirmed it to be a Bur Oak.  I was confused as its native range does not include South Carolina.  He said either Indian migration could have collected acorns from native growth.  Another possibility was that since the tree (and some of its friends) were planted in front of this church, so perhaps they were planted as specimen trees.  Either way, they created a wonderful frontage to this old church. 

Next week, taking a tree break.  Stay tuned for more to come.

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's a Jungle Out There

This has been going on for a couple weeks already and neighbors say it gets so loud you have to go inside if you want a conversation. (be sure to turn on your speakers)

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday's Trees- Photo Updates on Past Posts

Each of the photos has a link to the original posting, I plan to post these pictures on the original post page as well. Good to have all the information in one spot. Each photo can be clicked on for a larger view.

The White Oak has some great fall foliage color.

White Oak

With spring blooms like this you can understand why the bees like it so much. Sourwood is another red fall foliage tree, love it!


These Cryptomeria japonica photos are showing the male flowers from two different cultivars- 'Elegans Nana' and 'Black Dragon'

Cryptomeria japonica

I recently found out that the tops of the Deodora Cedar can freeze and leave the tree without a leader. There are many specimen like this in SC. Before I left Virginia I found a nice collection of new cones on this Deodora Cedar on Fort Eustis.

Deodora Cedar

Pictured below are a couple hickory fall foliage trees from my backyard. I have Mockernut, Shagbark and possibly Shellbark Hickories, so these photos could be other than the Shagbark from my posting, though they all have great yellow fall color.

Shagbark Hickory

In my posting of the Chinese Pistache I was concerned about the reports of red fall foliage and ours having yellow. They can have either. Found a red one in the parking lot of the Costco in Greenville.

Chinese Pistache

For fall color I think I am in love with the Sassafras albidum. Who can resist the salmon, peach, orange, yellow, red and light green colors of this beauty in the fall?


This grand tree was found in the South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson. With its smooth bark the American Beech is a canvas for those who want to profess their love.

American Beech

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Birds in Our Neighborhood

With the leaves off the trees, the bird watching is spectacular.  In addition to the Redheaded Woodpeckers and Bluebirds from the post last weekend, we have Downy Woodpeckers-

We went out on Tuesday to see about one of our clocks getting worked on and took a different way home.  One interesting tree (will share more later on this one) and some cool ferns (later for this as well) made the day even more fun for me.  We decided that if we saw a hawk on the way home the day would be complete.  As soon as we entered our neighborhood, lo and behold, there was a hawk up in one of the trees.  Sitting tall in a Tulip Poplar was a Redtail Hawk.   He (or She) sat there for a while.......
looking one way then the other.....


someone came to join him in the tree top.

They didn't like that I got out of the truck to take more pictures...

Sadly we drove on towards the house......rounding the bend who did we see????? Yes!!!  The pair of hawks. 

They were sitting together in another tree.  Parent and offspring?  Mates?  I have no idea, but they flew off together----

We were left to bird watch another day..................like today.
On our way out we saw the Barred Owl -- think it might be the same one, but not sure.  This is our third sighting of this type of owl.  Charlie saw him first---do you see him?

 Amazing how well they blend in.
 Say hi!!
Just a few more days until the Great Backyard Bird Count!
words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday's Trees- Sycamore, Plantanus occidentalis

The Sycamore tree, Plantanus occidentalis goes by many names-- American Planetree, Buttonball Tree, Buttonwood Tree to name a few.  I prefer Lollipop Tree.  As a child I thought the seed pods looked like lollipops hanging from the tree. 

What it is not is London Plane Tree.  That is a hybrid cross of the Plantanus occicentalis and Plantanus orientalis-- Platanus x acerifolia.  There are a couple easy ways to tell one from the other.  One is that the Sycamore has single seed balls hanging from the stem.  The London Plane Tree has at least two if not three clustered seed pods/balls.   The other difference is the London Plane Tree's bark coloring has more yellow instead of white. 

And now, more about the Sycamore-- 
It is a native tree to the eastern part of the United States.  It is hardy to zone 4.  The tree is a long lived tree, some specimen living upwards of 250 years.   It reaches 60- 90 feet in height and can get very large in diameter.  Some of my references say the diameter can be 10 feet!  Case in point, this is a very mature Sycamore at the JMU Arboretum .  I took these pictures last spring.  I can't tell you how old this tree is--- however, it is obviously quite old.

 It goes up and up and up-------  way up towards the top of the tree you can see the exfoliating bark .   Scroll down to the next photo-- see the knob on the picture above?  Now find it on the photo below---yes, right at the top --  and my lovely assistant is dwarfed by this tree.  Magnificent. 

The bark, as mentioned above is a striking feature of this great tree.  On young trees the bark is mottled with exfoliating bark.  Some say the tree looks as if the trunk is whitewashed.   As the tree ages the bark becomes darker and ridged, though the upper reaches of the crown are still smooth and white and tan mottled in appearance. 

The crown of the tree can spread 60- 70 feet wide.  It is pyramid shaped as a young tree, round when mature. 

There are both male and female flowers on the same tree, making it monoecious.  The seed pods are soft fluffy balls, hanging from a stem. 

In the winter these seed pods stand out against the sky.  This is another tree that is one whose fruit stands out in the winter along with the Sweetgum.   The flowers bloom in March, though they are not ornamentally important. 

The leaves are shaped like maple leaves, except quite large.  They are simple, 3-5 lobed margins, some of my sources say the leaf is 6"- 10" across, while other sights claim it came be as large as 15" across.  The fall color is yellow to brown, not terribly exciting. 

This tree can be found in the bottom lands and quite often is a pioneer tree in an open field.  While it likes the moist soils of bottom lands, it cannot handle extended periods of immersion.

The Sycamore is a fast growing tree and its lumber, while used in furniture and interior trim work, the wood is hard and twisted grain.  
The birds and small animals of the woodlands eat the seeds, though it is not a major food source. 
References- UConn, North Carolina Wildlife Nature Center, Vanderbilt, VTech, Forestry Service, and Floridata. All are great sources of information, photos, and scientific data. 

Next week I will have many of the updated photos from trees previously written about.  Come and see some fall foliage or spring blooms or  new fruits. 
words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday's Visitors

Our garden is a bird haven.  There is always someone out there----

This is a Redheaded Woodpecker-

 Bright colors abound--
and of course a Male Bluebird
Do you have lots of color in your garden?
words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.