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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

PC170010
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Thorn on the Cerros hawthorn

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Korean Evodia in August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amur Cork—Landscape Lovely or Harmful Invader?

First brought to the United States in 1856

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

P7060096
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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Glory—Crabapples

What most distinguishes an apple from a crab apples is size.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Indian Magic crabapple in bloom

Crabapples are part of the same genus as apples, genus Malus. What most distinguishes an apple from a crab apple is size, possibly of both the fruit and the tree itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Blossoms of the Dolgo crabapple

Often crabapples are planted as an ornamental in the garden due to their lovely early blossoms and sometimes the appearance of the fruit. Of the species of crabapple, only four are native to North America. Genus Malus, either native or introduced, can be found throughout North America.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Red Baron Crabapple Blossoms

Many varieties of crabapple may be used in similar ways to apples, although many of them are very sour or bitter. They have been used in jams, jellies, and ciders. They may also be used to make a pie, although that might involve quite a bit of cutting!

P7300019
Pomes of the Adams crabapple

The wood of the crabapple is used in woodworking projects, but usually the size limits it to smaller objects such as handles and small furniture. It is a popular wood for smoking foods, especially foul and pork.

Like many other wood products, the crabapple has a long list of ailments it has been said to alleviate such as diarrhea. The fruit and other parts of the tree may also help in cleaning the teeth and skin care. Some sources claim ingesting crabapples may reduce the chance of uterine and prostate cancer as well as lower the risk of heart disease, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Bark of the Indian Summer crabapple

A site from England with a short review of the tree says its symbolism is associated with love and marriage. Another website discusses apples and crabapples in mythic traditions throughout Europe. Another source links crabapples to Druids and their traditions, saying Druid Day of the Apple is November first. This is celebrated by concocting a bowl of wassail, which includes baked apples, libations, and spices.

JF Schmidt & Son provides a chart which includes bloom color, fruit color and size, as well as tree shape of many varieties of crabapple, only a few of which can be found in Fort Collins City Park.

Finding the Trees in City Park.

Crabapple trees are fairly easy to pick out when they are in bloom. Not all of the trees in the park are identified, but two of the largest and prettiest are on the corner of Mulberry and Jackson Streets, C161 Vanguard Crabapple (Malus Vanguard) and C162 Dolgo Crabapple (Malus Dolgo). 

P7300011
Fruit of the Dolgo Crabapple
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Dolgo Crabapple with an unnamed crabapple in the background

C176 Indian Magic Crabapple is about midway between Mulberry Street and City Park Drive on the east side of Sheldon Drive. This year the tree held its  small, raisin-sized fruit into the winter, giving it added visual interest. Blossoms and the later fruit are shown below while the tree in full bloom is at the top of this blog post.

More trees are on the other side of Sheldon Drive along the lake or close to the road.   The Adams crabapple (D 208), first of the featured trees on the west side of the street, is closer to the entrance and has lovely pink blossoms.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Adams crabapple blossoms

The two of the marked trees are D 200 David Crabapple and D 201 Thunderchild Crabapple. The David crabapple and its blossoms are shown below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
David crabapple along Sheldon Drive
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Pink buds yield white blossoms
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The more upright branches of the Thunderchild crabapple
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Thunderchild crabapple blossoms

(C 139) Indian Summer crabapple and (C 141) Red Baron crabapple are nearer to Jackson Street in the vicinity of Field 3. Below is a photo of the Indian Summer tree in bloom and the resulting pomes. These are a darker red than many of the other apples.

The blossoms of the Red Baron are closer to the top of this post. The photo of the tree shows it prior to bloom time. The second photo is of a spur twig.

The Centurion Crabapple (D 205) is almost immediately across from the Indian Magic tree.

P5060292
Bright pink blossoms of the Centurion crabapple

 

P5060299
Centurion crabapple

There are other crabapples in the park, including a large old tree called simply Crabapple (E 44) near the building at 1715 West Mountain. Two separate Radiant crabapples are tagged. The tree below, (E 32), is on an island in the middle of the south ballpark parking lot. There is a second, untagged crabapple sharing its space.

P5080115
Radiant crabapple

 

P5080113
Pale pink blossoms of the Radiant crabapple