Spring Glory—Crabapples

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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). 

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Fruit of the Dolgo Crabapple
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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.

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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.

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

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Bright pink blossoms of the Centurion crabapple

 

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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.

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Radiant crabapple

 

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Pale pink blossoms of the Radiant crabapple

 

 

 

Tatarian Maple

There may be close to 200 species of maples.

Who knew? I thought I’d do a quick post on a tree I “discovered” this summer, some sort of fancy maple. When you grow up in the East, you think all maples are sugar maples with leaves like those of the Canadian flag. 1200x1200 Top 79 Canada Clip ArtLittle did I know there are somewhere around 200 species of maples and not all of their leaves resemble the Canadian maple leaf. Most of the maple species grow in Asia and a few of them are evergreen! This blog has already covered one of the trees from China, the paperbark maple.

Some species of maple trees are native to North America, but many more have been introduced. Maples grow throughout the continent. According to JenniferAckerfield’s Flora of Colorado, only three species are native to Colorado. While many maples are currently on the threatened list, including the paperbark maple, Acer tataricum is not.

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Tatarian Maple (Acer tararicum)

This type of maple is adaptable, so adaptable the state of Connecticut has declared it possibly invasive. A native of Asia, this small tree or shrub has edible seeds and could be tapped for syrup, but it isn’t likely to yield enough to be of much value. The seeds, or samsaras, of this species turn a red color in the summer.

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Tatarian Maple samsara turning red
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Bark of the tatarian maple.

There is a second Tatarian maple in the park, and it was this other tree I first noticed. With a name like Hot Wings, you might think this variety was developed in Buffalo, New York, but its true birthplace is right here in Fort Collins, Colorado! When I first encountered it, from a distance I thought it might be a crabapple with early fruit, although the shape of the overall tree seemed wrong. Up close it was obvious it wasn’t a crabapple and was labeled a maple, a Hot Wings Tartarian Maple.

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Tatarian Hot Wings Maple

This is another small tree often used for ornamental purposes. It does well in adverse conditions. The show piece of this tree are the samsaras, which turn bright red in the summer. Although the leaves in the accompanying photo are mauled by hail and difficult to discern, they look very much like the leaves in the picture above and not at all like a Canadian maple leaf.

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Bright red samsaras of the Hot Wings Maple.

Finding the trees in City Park:

The Tatarian Maple (Acer tataricum) C167 is near the corner of Sheldon Drive and Mulberry Street, on the east side of Sheldon Drive. Locate it between the exercise station near the City Park pedestrian crossing and the stone City Park entrance sign.

The showier D202 Tatarian Hot Wings Maple (Acer tataricum Hot Wings) is about halfway to the intersection of Sheldon and City park on the lakeside of the street. It is near a wooden box, which actually looks more like a blank sign, and a stone memorial bench. 

How a Little Green Jewel Beetle May Change Major League Baseball Lovers Way of Life—The Real Ash Trees

Leaves of ash trees were used to ward off snakes,

The White Ash tree (Fraxinus americana)

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Trunk of the White Ash with a 75 lb. Irish Water Spaniel sitting in front of it.

is another tree native to the eastern half of the continent. Unlike most other trees from the east, the USDA lists its native range as extending into Colorado. Flora of Colorado (Ackerman) says this species does not “persist outside of cultivation,” though. She also mentions it is very similar to the Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica,)  which is native to Larimer County as well as most of the rest of the continent.  Oddly, the Green Ash is also known as Red Ash. Unfortunately, both trees are on the critically endangered list. 

The national champion white ash, nominated in 2012, is in New Jersey and has a total of 398 points, compared to the Colorado champion which only has 288.9 points. The second and third largest Colorado ash trees are in Fort Collins, both in City Park, but only the smaller of the two is tagged. You can locate the runner up tree by using the Notable Tree Tour map of Fort Collins. The National Champion Green Ash is in Virginia. It has a total score of 355, while the Colorado champion, located in Greeley, has a score of just over 315.

An interesting early use of the ash tree

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White Ash tree-tied for 3rd largest in Colorado

was for people to stuff their shoes and pockets with leaves as these were said to ward off snakes. Ash trees in Viking legend involve the creation of man. Interestingly, this was also part of Algonquin Legends. In modern “legend” ash wood has figured in Harry Potter. More prosaic uses of ash lumber are in baseball bats, guitars, bows, hockey sticks and tool handles. Juicing the leaves

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White Ash leaves hit by two hail storms

results in a topical treatment for mosquito bites. The tree provides food for birds and other small animals as well as shade, and is a valuable member of the ecosystem.

The emerald ash borer is a major threat to the species. This introduced pest was first detected in the US in 2002, but it is thought that the first invaders appeared in Michigan in the 1990s. A similar invasion affecting European ash trees has been noted in Russia. As of this year, 33 states and three Canadian providences have been confirmed to be infected. Millions of trees have already been lost. In the Denver area alone there are nearly 1.5 million ash trees and in certain parts of Colorado ash trees could account for 80% of the urban forest. There are over 3000 ash trees in the city of New York. A bulletin was issued in October, 2017 that emerald ash borers had been found in the boroughs of NY.

Although this pest could be devastating to the ash population, there are steps that can be taken to help protect trees. Some of these involve not assisting in the spread of this problem. You can inoculate your own trees when the threat has reached your area. For a tree to be a candidate for injection or spraying, it needs to be healthy. Unfortunately, emerald ash borer is not the only threat to ash trees. The white ash is sensitive to ozone  and other gas levels and also prone to ash decline.

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Bark of the white ash tree

The Coalition for Urban Ash Tree Conservation has a position paper on reasons and methods to work with this growing problem, as does the Society for Municipal Arborists.The Emerald Ashborer Information Network includes various links to assist individuals, neighborhoods and cities in working with this virulent problem. Nearly all states seem to have a set of guidelines to follow.

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Bark of the green ash

Why should this little green pest be of interest to you? Are you a fan of major league baseball? Did you know the bats used in league play, most of which are made by Louisville Slugger have used wood from an area now devastated by the emerald ash borer? If you are a woodworker, the loss of this abundant and inexpensive wood could be a factor in future projects.

An interesting study which should be of concern to all of us recently concluded human health can be linked to the loss of trees, specifically the ash trees. The presence of emerald ash borer and subsequent decline in the ash tree population was associated with an increase of over 20,000 deaths related to respiratory or cardiovascular causes.

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Winged fruit of the green ash tree.

At least some believe the increase in deaths is related to the ability of trees and forests to help humans deal with stress.

Another point to remember is that genus Fraxinus are the trees being devastated by the borer. Mountain Ash (Sorbus) trees are not affected.

Finding some of the ash trees in Fort Collins City Park.

Both a large green ash tress and a large white ash are located behind the tennis courts. You could park near the trolley terminal and walk West to find A78 White Ash (Fraxinus americana) located behind the pickle ball courts.

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Green Ash tree on the edge of the playground

Almost due South is the Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) E80. There is a smaller maple tree between the two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lilac Tree-Extending the Blooms But Do They Smell Good?

Some say the blooms smell like honey.

Many years ago a friend wrote a story featuring Lilac trees. We objected that lilacs were shrubs, not trees, but apparently we weren’t aware of Syringa reticulata, or the Japanese tree lilac. A similar tree, the Peking tree lilac was at one time considered a separate species Syringa pekinensis although some now consider it subspecies of the Japanese Lilac tree.

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Peking tree lilac to the right of the bench. Smaller Japanese tree lilac to the left blends in with the larger tree behind it.

Both trees have origins in Asia, most notably Japan, China, Korea, and a part of Russia. Possibly Japanese tree lilac is  more common in the United States. The USDA lists it primarily as a tree introduced in New York, three New England states and Wyoming! The national champion tree is found in Massachusetts. Oddly, according to the USDA, the Peking version has only been introduced into Pennsylvania. Most sources mention the trees are often used  as landscape accents and street trees. There are numerous Japanese Tree Lilacs in New York City, with fewer Peking Tree Lilacs. The Japanese variety is a featured tree in Central Park.

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Flower sprays of the Japanese tree lilac

The genus Syringa includes the common lilac as well as about thirty other varieties. The Japanese tree lilac is said to be the only member of the genus that attains tree status. This would seem accurate if the Peking tree lilac is considered a subspecies.

The later blooming of the white flowers appears to be the main attraction of these trees, although they are also said to be drought and pollution resistant. The trees in Fort Collins have been flowering for a week or so, making them concurrent with the Catalpas. Larger trees are also valued for their shade canopy.

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Close up of a Japanese tree lilac

Various authors disagree about the scent of the trees, some saying it is unpleasant, others that it has little to no odor and others saying the Peking tree scent is that of honey. Before the trees stop blooming, you’ll have to smell for yourself and decide.

The major difference between the two varieties seems to be the bark, with that of the Chinese Tree Lilac, an alternate name along with Pekin Tree for the obvious specimen, being reddish and peeling later in the year. The strips of bark look to me like someone has wrapped the tree in packing tape.

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Bark of the Peking Tree Lilac

As with many other aspects of trees, there is controversy over this small species. Some sources are concerned the trees are invasive. Other areas of the country from cities in Massachusetts  to the state of Wyoming note them as underused trees. Illinois considers the Japanese Lilac Tree as low risk of invasiveness.

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Gnarly trunk of the Japanese tree lilac

To find the marked trees in the park, turn from Mulberry Street onto Sheldon Drive and park close to the intersection with City Park Drive in front of the Arm Walking exercise station. Directly east are the two trees pictured in the photo with the bench. C181 Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata) is the smaller tree to the south. The larger tree to the north of the bench is C187 Peking Tree Lilac (Syringa pekinensis). A larger version of the latter tree, D212, which I believe was planted in the 1960s, can be seen on the northwest corner of Mulberry and Sheldon.

A cultivar of the Japanese tree lilac, E4 Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata Ivory Silk) 

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Japanese tree lilac Ivory Silk

is viewable in front of the Parks Department building at 413 S. Bryan. This memorial tree is directly in front of the building. The state of Washington suggests this variety as a smart addition to the Pacific Northwest Garden.

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Flowers of the Ivory Silk Japanese tree lilac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tree the British Play With: Horsechestnut

The World Conker Championships have been held since 1965.

Horsechestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum), also known as Conker Tree in England, are in the same genus as Buckeyes. Both are part of the same order as the Soapberry tree.P5180061

These trees are planted as street trees for ornamentation as well as shade. Both the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees and North American Trees (Preston and Braham, 2002) report them as “escaped.” The USDA maps show them as introduced in both the East and the Northwest. The tree originated in the Balkans but has been planted widely throughout Europe and other parts of the world. They may have been introduced in the United States as early as 1576.

Monumental trees lists the widest trunked tree in England, the tallest at over 120 feet in the Netherlands, and the oldest as a specimen in France, which might be as old as 500 years. The leaves are palmate, radiating out from a central point. This species isn’t listed in the National Forest Registry, but the Colorado Tree Coalition lists the largest and tallest tree in the state as one in Cedaredge. The largest Red Horsechestnut can be found in Denver.

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The leaflets radiate from a central post

The trees flower in May in what look like cones of white flowers. P5180054Sibley reports the interior yellow spots turn red when fertilized. The fertilized flowers produce what are known as conkers, or the “nut.” This is NOT the same as a sweet chestnut, and the outer casings look quite different. The two should not be confused as conkers are considered poisonous to humans, although they may be edible once boiled. Sweet chestnuts are encased in a spiny looking ball while the outer coating of a horse chestnut looks like bumpy leather. The interior “nuts” look similar but the edible version has a discernible and palpable point while the poisonous conkers are flat. Horsechestnuts are edible for many animals and are fed to horses and other livestock.

Apparently horsechestnuts are used in homeopathy. They are touted as useful for various circulatory problems such as venous insufficiency, phlebitis, and varicose veins when properly prepared. The leaves and bark may also be useful in a number of other conditions. Lupus is mentioned.

As they are not native to North America or The British Isles, there aren’t many myths associated with them. There is a game played in England called Conkers. This game is reported to have been a favorite of Roald Dahl. Currently, Britain’s trees are threatened by a combination of moths and disease. The loss of the trees may impact the World Conker Championship, which has been held in Northampton since 1965.

A notable characteristic of the Horsechestnut are the distinctive winter buds, which are large and sticky. P4120076

 

 

 

Below is a short video about the Horse Chestnut in the United States.

 

The Red Horse Chestnut (Aesculus x carnea Briottii) is a cross between a Red Buckeye and the common Horsechestnut.P5180013

The flowers are red or pink and it is the most common large red-flowering tree in temperate zones (The Sibley Guide to Trees). The flowers are quite stunning. P5180006

City Park’s  Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) (B115) can be found just west of the intersection of Jackson and Oak streets, across from 1312 W. Oak. This tree was planted in 1997 and had a diameter of about 3.5″

To locate the Red Horse Chestnut (Aesculus x crane Briotii) (A93), continue west on Oak Street to the first turn into the park. This street is a continuation of Roosevelt Avenue.  The tree is one of the few deciduous trees in the NE triangle formed by Roosevelt and Sheldon Drive.

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Close up of the Red Horse Chestnut blossoms.

Mayday tree: Inadvertent Meaning to a Name?

In Scotland this was once known as the Witches’ Tree

The Mayday tree is a member of the rose family, in the same genus as cherries and plums. Another common name for it is European Bird Cherry. This name gives a clue as to its origin. According to a Canadian website, it grows in countries near the Arctic but is native throughout Europe where its berries attract birds. It has been introduced in the US and is most prevalent in Alaska and parts of the east, including Canada.

The tree is grown as an ornamental in the states. It is on more than one list of preferred trees for Colorado and is included as a good choice for the Front Range by the Colorado Tree Coalition.

There is no doubt that it is a gorgeous tree when it blooms. It also has a distinctive, spicy smell which wafts over large areas.

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Blooming Mayday Tree

The lovely scented flowers of this tree become dark colored “cherries,” also called

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Flower Clusters of the Mayday Tree

chokecherries, although the berries usually eaten in the US with that name are from the same genus but a different species. These are said to be very bitter, but may still be made into jams and jellies. One source says they can be used to make cherry brandy. Mention is made that Koreans eat the boiled leaves.

The various parts of the tree have been used for the usual medicinal remedies for internal problems such as gall stones; colds, and fevers. A more unusual mention is a concoction of an eyewash for conjunctivitis. The leaves and berries may be made into green dyes, as well as a reddish dye for fishing nets. Some sources say the lumber is prized in woodworking, but the Wood Database doesn’t list it.

Although this tree does not currently appear to pose a threat to the lower 48, it has become invasive in Alaska. It may cause difficulty in growing other shade trees as well as adversely affect the willow population. Moose often feed on willow trees, possibly decreasing a food source. The leaves, twigs, and drupes contain hydrogen cyanide and can be deadly for horses and other large animals. Recently this has caused problems for moose. Eaten in small amounts, humans normally will not be harmed by the hydrogen cyanide in the berry’s seeds.

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Mayday Tree bark

A photo of the trunk of the tree is included to help in identification.

D74 May Day Tree (Prunus padusis located on S. Bryan Drive between Oak Street and City Park Drive. It is very close to the street, across from the playground. This specimen was planted in 1993.

As indicated, this tree is called variously the May Day Tree, Mayday tree, European Bird Cherry, Cluster Cherry, and Hagberry. (The Sibley Guide to Trees.) At first I thought it was named the May Day tree as the flowers bloomed around the beginning of May. After reading of the danger to native trees in Alaska and the poisoning of large mammals, I wonder of it was inadvertently given a name mimicking a call for help!

 

 

Incense Cedar: Why Not the Pencil Tree?

Wine glasses, fleur de lis, pencils and casket liners?

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Shaggy bark of the Incense Cedar

From recent posts it might be concluded that many trees, including some of the cedars, have quite a few monikers. So why isn’t Pencil tree an alternative for the Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) ? Apparently there is something called a Pencil Tree, but it isn’t a plant that grows in the wild but instead is a slim fake Christmas tree. At least one book (North American Trees, Preston and Braham, 2002) does refer to this species as the Pencil-Cedar, but I didn’t not come across this designation elsewhere.

The Incense Cedar is native to the continent, but is only found in Oregon, California, Nevada, and Baja California. The eastern reach into Nevada may be because this tree, unlike others in the false-cypress family, doesn’t mind drier conditions. It isn’t normally found in a stand of the same species, but usually is the local specimen amongst others. Although its native habitat is limited, apparently it can be grown through much of the United States and is used as an ornamental.

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Leaves looking a bit like long-stemmed wine glasses.

Descriptions of the conifer’s leaves and cones are the most poetic I’ve yet encountered. The leaves are described as resembling long-stemmed wine glasses The opened seed cones are likened to both duck bills and the fleur-de-lis. The bark, cinnamon-colored, holds interest, too, and resembles that of the Paperbark Maple but in larger shreds. For a look at some older trees around the Portland, OR area, check out this blog: http://amycampion.com/incense-cedar-not-just-another-evergreen-tree. There is also a photo of the opened cone.

The largest example of this tree is known as the Devil’s Canyon Colossus and grows in California. Other large trees can be found in Oregon. Conifers.org says there is rumor of a tree that is over 930 years old, but without supporting evidence

Like most other conifers, this one had many uses for Native Americans, most similar to those of other evergreens. Breathing the steam from the leaves was used for upper respiratory ailments and a tea from the leaves could be brewed for stomach upsets. Baskets and brooms were made from the bark and boughs. Some Californian Native Americans may also have used the leaves as a flavoring agent. 

In the 1860s  and 70s the species’ lumber was used extensively for goldmine flumes. Current uses include closet liners, shingles, garden benches, boardwalks. On a macabre note, the wood has also been used to line both caskets and graves. The principle current use of the lumber, though, seems to be pencils.

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Pencils.com, a blog devoted to pencils, identifies Incense Cedar as the best wood for creating pencils. Other writers concur, but this wasn’t always the case. Pencils were first mass produced in Germany in 1662 and the first pencils in the New World were made in Massachusetts in1812. The first American factory opened in New York City in 1861. At first these writing implements were made of Eastern Red Cedar, but in the early 1900s, the Incense Cedar was found to have superior wood for their manufacture as it didn’t splinter easily and saw smooth.

There are plenty of odd facts about pencils, including that Napoleon wanted them as much as world domination. At one time bread crumbs were used as erasers. (Scum-X anyone?) Pencils were originally used on space flights but later banned. Many other sites include tidbits and other useless but interesting information about pencils and their history.

Although anti-dumping and other government sanctions have been applied to imported pencils from China, today the US may make fewer than 14%  of the world’s pencils. Incense cedar pencils may still be purchased here, although not all those sold are manufactured in America.

To find the (B114) Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) in the Fort Collins City Park Arboretum, you could park across from the second house from the NW corner of Oak and Jackson and walk directly into the park. The tree is located along City Park Drive, not far from the Giant Sequoia. There is a doggie bag station directly under the tree. To find the tag, walk into the branches. It is fun to see the tangled pattern they create when you look upwards as well. 

This particular specimen was planted in 1996 when its diameter was 3.5″.

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Incense Cedar with the doggie bag station visible under and behind it.