Southwestern White Pine–Food for Bears?

Pinecones aren’t always helpful in identification, especially when they are missing or misplaced.

I put off a post about the southwestern white pine, Pinus strobiformis, until after Christmas because I figured it wouldn’t be of much use as a holiday tree. To my surprise, a site from Kansas identified it as such. The Covered Bridge Ranch in Montrose, Colorado also included it on a chart of its trees for sale for holiday decoration.

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The needles of a southwestern white pine

This variety of conifer has five needles growing per fascicle and each leaf may grow up to four inches in length.

Pinus strobiformis is found in the southwestern states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and the southwest/south central counties of Colorado (Ackerman, Jennifer, Flora of Colorado) where it may grow up to 9000 feet in elevation. Like many other trees it has other common names such as pino enamo, border pine, and Mexican pine (North American Trees, Preston and Braham, 5th edition.)

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The branches and bark of the southwestern white pine

According to the US Forest Service, although used for window frames and some cabinetry, this species is not valuable as lumber due to its tendency toward crooked growth. It is sometimes grown for its ornamental value, and some dwarf versions are available.

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A southwestern white pine

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center lists this species as having large seeds, which have served as food for both wildlife and southwestern tribes. At least one paper reports the seeds are a food for black bears. Practical Plants likens the seeds to piñon nuts with a harder shell. This website also mentions a vanilla flavoring agent from the resin. Like most other pines, the resins and other parts of the plant have been used as disinfectants and medicinally for many conditions.

The Gymnosperm Database lists the largest tree in the US as being in the Lincoln National Forest of New Mexico. This tree has a circumference of nearly five feet, is a bit over 111 feet tall, and has a crown spread of 62 feet. The oldest tree is also in New Mexico but is part of the San Mateo mountains. In 2006 it was said to be 599 years old. The tallest specimen, though, is in the San Juan Forest of Colorado. In 2014 it was measured as being nearly 128 feet tall.

To find C173 Southwestern White Pine (Pinus strobiformis) in Fort Collins City Park, start near the corner of Mulberry Street and Sheldon Drive. This specimen is on the east side of the road, behind a larger conifer, more or less across from the outhouse on the W side of the road.

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Is this the cone of the southwestern white pine?

Note on pinecones. It seems like conifer cones would be a useful way to help identify what kind of tree you are looking at. I found this specimen under the pine tree, but does it actually belong to this tree? It was the only cone. Between this tree and the conifer nearer to the road were strewn a number of other, slightly different cones. Descriptions of the white pine cone vary. How and where the cone grows on the tree can be of use in identification. Alas, no cones were visible on this tree at the time of viewing, eliminating the direction of growth as a helpful indicator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Invasive Christmas Tree–the Scotch Pine

A Scotch Pine has never been used as the Capitol Christmas tree.

Every list of tree species used as Christmas trees seems to include the Scotch or Scots Pine, latin name Pinus sylvestris. At least one list considers it the most popular tree in the States, while others list it as the most popular pine but 8th most popular conifer overall. The National Christmas Tree Association does say it is the most popular tree for the holiday season.

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The distinctive two needle packets of the Scotch pine.

The Scots pine is the most widely distributed pine in the world, with its range stretching across Europe and into Asia, or as many sources say, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean. Although not often used as lumber in the US, that is a common use throughout Europe.

The species was introduced into North America in the 17th century.  It has naturalized throughout most of Canada and the northeast United States. In fact, it has been so successful in some areas, it is considered invasive. Wisconsin considers it such but currently does not regulate it. The Ontario Parks blog has a headline “Don’t Deck the Halls with Scots Pine for Christmas”.

According to the gymnosperm website, the use of this variety of pine as a Christmas tree is mostly a custom in the United States. This same site says the Scots pine is the second most common conifer world-wide after the common juniper. To sell as a Christmas tree, the Scots pine is grown on tree farms for six to eight years before reaching a height of 7-8 feet. The trees normally last for three or four weeks and even when not watered, they usually don’t drop their needles. More than one source says this conifer accounts for 10% of Christmas tree sales. Although these are popular in the home, a Scotch pine has never been used as the Capitol Christmas tree.

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The Scots pine in City Park

While parts of the tree are edible and can be ground down to a meal to add to oatmeal or flour, it is considered a food of last resort. Like many other plants, it has a long list of conditions for which it is reputed to have a medicinal effect, including respiratory problems. Not surprisingly, the leaves have been used as an antiseptic.

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Cone from a Scotch Pine

The Scots pine is the national tree of Scotland. Although many will tell of the days when Scotland was covered by the Caledonian forest, made up of Pinus sylvestris, this version is disputed by the Scottish historian Christopher Smout. Still, as the only native pine in the UK, it has many uses, including telephone poles, source of turpentine, and fencing. A large stand of the pines was used for WWII commando training as well as in a Harry Potter movie. This group of Scots Pine has recently been saved by the Scottish Land Trust and local residents, hoping to use it as a tourist site. There are about 77 remnants of the Caledonian forest, with about nine of them easily accessible.

Many sources say these trees can live to 700 years. The oldest known tree is in Finland and dates back 764 years. The tallest tree is about half the height of an average Redwood.

To find (E55) Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) on the Fort Collins City Park self-guided tour, head to the intersection of Bryan and Oak Streets. The large conifer is on the east side of the ditch, directly behind the speed limit sign. See the photo above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern White Pines:Suitable for Christmas or Rebellion?

What type of tree will you select for your Christmas tree this year?

What kind of tree do you think of when someone says natural Christmas tree? I suspect many of us think of a pine tree. Oddly, the most common trees used aren’t pines but firs and spruces. Pines do make the list of common or best trees, but only a few species are routinely used. In England the lodgepole pine is mentioned as a choice! In the U.S. two or three species are mentioned, probably dependent on what part of the country you live in.

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Eastern White Pine

Eastern White Pines (Pinus storbus) are native to North America and found from Minnesota south to Arkansas and east. This is the state tree of both Maine and Michigan. Considered the tallest native pine in the east, modern day trees are dwarfed by other trees in the genus, such as the Ponderosa and sugar pine. The single largest specimen,  which can be found in Maine, is 132′ tall and has a circumference of 229 inches. The normal life expectancy of this species is about 200 years, although a fossilized log found in Ontario included 407 rings.

Most of the virgin forests have been logged, although the species is planted for reforestation. White pine timber has been used to build boats, furniture, and buildings. In the 1700s the trees were harvested to provide masts for the Royal Navy, thus leading to the Pine Tree Riot of 1772.

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Trunk of an Eastern White Pine

Beyond their use as building materials and firewood, the white pine provided resin in the building of canoes. The sap was used as an antiseptic and chemicals found in white pine may still be used as ingredients in anti congestion medications. The Healing Power of Plants website also includes the information that a component chemical in white pines may be useful in combating LDL cholesterol. At least one site mentions the seeds were used to cure meats, and the cambium could be ground into a flour. This was used by both early settlers and Native American populations. Early blackboards were often made of white pine painted black.

The Eastern white pine is usually included on lists of trees sold for Christmas. One possible advantage to its use is it tends to hold onto its needles longer than other conifers.

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Needles on an Eastern White Pine showing the clusters of five

They also have little aroma, which makes them  a good choice for those who have sensitivities. But they are very full, bushy trees and their branches cannot accommodate heavy ornaments.

A white pine has only been used as the Capitol Christmas tree, also known as the People’s tree, twice in the fifty-four year history of the program. In both 1968 and 69 PARTs of an Eastern white pine were used. Although still listed as being a species used as a Christmas tree, even in Michigan it seems to have fallen out of favor. A recent study rated it #7 in acreage planted.

To find this (164) specimen, head to the southwest corner of City Park and Mulberry. It should be easy to find between the two handicapped parking signs  seen in the photo above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hawthorn Trees: Supernatural Powers and an Unassuming Champion.

Draco Malfoy’s wand was made of hawthorn

On September 4, 2018, one of the trees in Fort Collin’s City Park was named a NATIONAL champion, the 9th such title Colorado can claim. Okay, okay, don’t get too excited. Yes, it is nice to have a national champion, but when you find this specimen, you might be a tad disappointed as it is far from gigantic. In fact, before I knew it was a national champion, I kind of laughed at it. Its fruit is minuscule. The leaves late in the summer looked ravished, and overall, it wasn’t impressive, although it was larger and bushier than one of the other hawthorns in the park.

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The new NATIONAL champion Cerro Hawthorn

Crataegus erythopoda, or the Cerro hawthorn, is native to the Rocky Mountain states along with other trees and shrubs in this genus. Crataegus is a member of the rose family. According to Sibley in The Sibley Guide to Trees, in the early 1900s botanists had named over a thousand different species of hawthorns. This number is now closer to a more manageable one hundred. Apparently types of hawthorn grow throughout North America. Like so many other trees, they are known by many names including thornapple, may-tree in Europe, white thorn, mayflower and maybush.

The trees of this genus have thorns, flowers in the spring, and pomes resembling crabapples in the fall. In the UK the fruit are called haws. These berry-like fruits vary in size and color for

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Thorn on the Cerros hawthorn

each of the many species in this genus. Various species of hawthorn are ubiquitous throughout North America.

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The fruit of the Cerros hawthorn

Another hawthorn native to most of North America, including Colorado, is the Fleshy hawthorn (Crataegus succulenta.) Although the general consensus seems to be 

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The Fleshy hawthorn, another native tree

the fruit of the hawthorn is not delectable, at least one website says the haws of this species are sweet, juicy, and good for making jellies. It also mentions the fruit is slightly larger than that of other species, and these characteristics might be where it gets its Latin name. Eat the Weeds indicates that hawthorn seeds inside the pomes are poisonous and should not be eaten. At the same time, the website includes recipes for

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The fruit of the fleshy hawthorn

Schnapps, jellies, including one of Euell Gibbons recipes, and hawthorn catsup. If you happen to own a prolific tree, you do have to be careful of the thorns if picking the haws!

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Thorn on the fleshy hawthorn.

According to Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West (Michael Moore, 2003) the hawthorn has been used as a heart tonic. Other authors say it has been used for cardiovascular health for over 500 years. Another source goes so far as to say the hawthorn provides “the world’s best heart tonic,” mentions studies conducted in Europe and references both articles and books. The flowers, which are bitter, the fruit, and the leaves all may be used, although the berries may begin to ferment after frost. As is the case with most herbal medications, this one comes with warnings of potential side effects.

Hawthorn trees have played a part in mythology, and are often considered unlucky. Draco Malfoy’s wand is made of hawthorn wood in the Harry Potter series. Up until the 19th century, the tree was considered to have supernatural powers.  A particular tree in England, the Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree has links to the beginning of Christianity and actually bloomed twice a year, including near the winter solstice. This most famous of  hawthorn trees was vandalized in 2010, but in 2011 there was a report that it may be “back from the dead.

Hawthorn trees easily and freely hybridize, which might be why the number of separate species varies. The other three identified hawthorns in City Park appear to be variant trees. The Lavelle hawthorn  (Crataegus X Lavallei)  E65 is a relatively spineless variety with small green fruits into the fall.

This tree is located near the shed in the center of the current miniature train tracks at the corner of City Park and Bryan Drive.

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Lavelle hawthorn near the miniature railroad tunnel shed

C169, the Snowbird Hawthorn (Crataegus x mordenensis SnowBird) is located near the corner of Mulberry and Sheldon Drive, along Mulberry Street. This particular tree had very few haws. Thorns protrude from the small branches.

The last of the tagged hawthorns is near the Snowbird, about a third of the way between Mulberry and City Park along Sheldon Drive. C174 is the Winter King Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis Winter King.) 

Both the fleshy hawthorn (Crataegus succulenta) E40 and E36 Cerros hawthorn are on the west end of the ballfields. You can find the ballfields by walking or driving to the very end of Oak Street. E36 is near the NW tip of the south ball field while E40 is near the NW tip of the north field.

E36 is mis-identified on at least some copies of the tree guide as a Black Hawthorn, but its tag clearly says Crataegus erythopoda or the Cerro hawthorn.

 

Bees at the Bee-Bee Tree

Hundreds of saplings may grow under a female tree.

The Korean Evodia is another tree with a checkered history in North America. The Latin name for this tree included on the City Park Tree Guide is given as Evodia danielli but it appears Tetradium danielli  is also used. Other names include Bee tree, Bee-bee tree or bebe tree. Other sources include the name Honey tree and One Hundred Thousand Flower tree. The current USDA map shows it naturalized in Pennsylvania and Ohio, yet many other states are reporting it as having escaped.

Although Pennsylvania has this species on its watch list for invasive potential, at this point it is not known how it might damage the environment. A four-acre patch of escaped trees has been reported in Maryland. A short article published in 2017 gives more information about the nature of this tree and its invasive nature, stating that hundreds of saplings grow under a female tree and it has been seen outcompeting other invasive species such as the tree of heaven and Japanese stilt grass.

First brought to the United States in the early nineteen hundreds, this specimen is native to the Koreas, northwest China and other parts of Asia. Why is it given its various monikers?

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A cluster of buds for the Korean evodia or One Hundred Thousand Flower tree.

Although the many small blooms, in clusters that resemble poorly formed cauliflower heads, are rather high up and hard to see, bees swarm these late bloomers. It is the second week in September here in Colorado and the flowers are still blooming. Purportedly female flowers will turn to stunning red seed pods.

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Bees on the flowers of the Korean Evodia

This propensity for late blooming makes the tree popular with both bees and possibly beekeepers. Although many sites mention this as a nectar source, the references I found date to the 1970s with few current citations. One website suggests a substance made from the seeds is used as both a cooking and hair oil!

In the 1990s the US Forest Service lamented this tree was not used more often for ornamental purposes and suggested it would be a good street tree. Similar to the Amur cork tree, parts of Korean evodia have been used in Chinese medicine for 2000 years. It has been used to treat arthritis, headaches, gastric upset, and other ailments. Both WebMD and RxList suggest there is not enough evidence to show if any parts of the plant are effective.WebMD includes a number of drugs with which evodia may interact and cautions pregnant and breastfeeding women from using it. Surgical patients should also use caution as it might interfere with blood clotting.

C185 Korean Evodia (Evodia danielii) is either no longer tagged or the tag is nearly impossible to find when the tree is blooming. At the right time of year, though, it is fairly easy to identify by the many bees buzzing around its flowers and its somewhat unusual  shape. If you found the Amur Cork, walk slightly south and west from there. Although not perfectly aligned with Olive Street, you can also start from where Olive Street tees into Jackson and walk west and slightly south across the park to find it. It is near a large evergreen tree.

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Korean Evodia in August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amur Cork—Landscape Lovely or Harmful Invader?

First brought to the United States in 1856

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Amur cork tree

Amur cork  tree (Phellodendron amurenses) is native to China, Korea, and other areas of Asia. It was first brought to the United States in 1856 and grown in the Harvard Botanic gardens as early as 1908. From 1933 it has been reported to have naturalized in New York. Currently it is considered an invasive plant in a number of states. As an invasive plant it crowds out native trees and produces berries which are less nutritious than the nuts of native trees; its berries do not have the same essential fats needed for wildlife to survive through the winter.

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Leaves of the Amur cork tree

Some of the sources referenced above speculate that the trees were brought from Asia by railroad workers. The trees’ growth patterns have contributed to its “success” in crowding out native specie. By suppressing the growth of canopy trees, it has become one of the dominate trees in eastern states. Although many states warn against planting Amur cork, others suggest Phellodendron amurenses is a good landscape variety. A few suggest only male trees be considered. This might be a reasonable solution in areas were there are no others, but in areas where the trees have naturalized, the male tree may still fertilize female trees and add to the problem.

Possibly one of the reasons Amur Corks were originally brought to North America is that it is considered to be one of the fifty most important herbs used in Chinese medicine. Some of its compounds have been used to treat meningitis, arthritis, cancers, and diseases of the lungs. The Ainu population of Japan also used parts of this tree as a painkiller.

WebMD mentions most of the uses above. It also states some of the trees’ compounds, such as berberine, might lower blood sugar and LDL cholesterol. At the same time they include warnings about possible harmful effects. There is limited scientific research to support usage.

Other non-medicinal uses have been mentioned; older literature suggests the bark as a substitute for cork.

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The corky trunk of the Amur Cork Tree

It may be used for cork in Russia. An oil made from seeds may have insecticidal properties. A yellow dye obtained from inner layers of bark, was used to produce yellow-tinted paper, useful in distinguishing the important of various Chinese documents.

The Amur cork tree (C138) may be found in City Park  where Olive Street intersects with Jackson Street. As can be seen in the photo at the beginning of this post, the tree is almost directly across from Olive Street street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Son Flowering Tree

Discovered in 1907 but not cultivated in the US until the 1980s.

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Seven Son Flowering Tree

The Seven Son Flowering Tree (Heptacodium miconiodes) is supposed to have a profusion of blooms in early August. It is mid August. So far I’ve seen two small white flowers on the tree on the city park tour. Not sure if it bloomed and I missed it, it’s too young, planted in too shady a spot, or if it will bloom more fully at a later time.

This small tree almost looks more like a shrub than a tree and looks to have many smaller trunklets. Like the paperbark maple, this tree also has very shaggy bark. Many authors mention its interesting bark as adding interest to the winter landscape.

Although originally discovered in China in 1907, this tree wasn’t cultivated in the US until the 1980s. Like the paperbark maple, there are not many specimens left in China. This is the only plant in its genus and it is said to be in the same family as honeysuckle.

One of the oldest trees in this country may be seen at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The author of the write up for that tree also mentions that this plant has a lovely fragrance, although, again, this wasn’t noticeable at the time of my last visit. We did, though, manage to take a photo of the flowers, which I would still not consider blooming in abundance. The article mentions the seeds are spectacular in the fall and shows a photo of what appear to be red flowers. P8170153

One use of this plant may be as an alternative to other shrubs which may be considered invasive or a nuisance in certain areas. This Old House suggests planting it in place of butterfly bushes in states such as CA and  NY.

To find A75 Seven Son Flower Tree (Heptacodium miconioides) park near the intersection of S. Bryan and Oak Street. This tree is behind the pottery studio on that corner. Maybe in late August you will be able to smell it or in the early fall it might be identifiable by its red flower-like seeds.