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. 

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!

 

 

First Tree to Bloom–Cornelian Cherries. Fit For Pigs or a Revived Food Source?

An ancient Serbian saying is “Healthy as a Cornelian Cherry.”

I met with Forestry Specialist Molly Roche yesterday and inquired about which trees might flower first. She responded there was already one tree in bloom! Although I’d noticed many trees starting to bud, the only flowers I’ve noticed so far have been on a tree in Denver. My casual observation is that Denver is usually two weeks to ten days ahead of us in weather-dependent events. So I was surprised but visited the tree, a Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas), which is a member of the Dogwood family.

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Cornelian Cherry in bloom March 23, 2018

The Dogwood family is large and diverse, containing at least 120 species from small trees and shrubs to herbaceous plants. This member of the Cornaceae family originated in Asia and Europe and resembles forsythia. Apparently this plant and its fruit are  bountiful in Serbia and result in an ancient saying, “healthy as a cornelian cherry.” The small yellow flowers are not particularly showy, nor did I notice a distinct odor.

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Flowers of the Cornelian Cherry Tree

According to many internet sources, the cherries (drupes) are edible, nutritious, and delicious. These factors may make them a good choice for a backyard crop. A test farm in Wisconsin mentions they yield in a short time and have little tendency to be invasive. They also estimate that the plants will be viable for around fifty years, although another source calls the pit a deterrent to mass production.

Mother Earth News mentions the high vitamin C content of the cherries as a possible reason for their medicinal value. The fruit has been used for the usual intestinal complaints including cholera, as well as a cure for symptoms such as tinnitus. Medicinal Herbs suggests an oil can be distilled from seeds and a dye may be acquired from the bark. The wood may also have been fashioned into bows and spears.

Although some cultures thought the wild cherries fit only for pigs, the fruit has been eaten for centuries. Similar to juniper berries in gin, the dried cherries are added to vodka and wine in Russia. There is an alcoholic beverage from Albania, raki, which uses the fruit. Cherries can be made into preserves, into a cranberry-like sauce, and are used in Persian cuisine. Recipes for various sorts of syrups, jams and other preparations can be found on the web.

Location in City Park. Depending on the time of year, E10 Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas) may be very easy to find as it could be the only tree flowering in the park. From South Bryan Avenue, take the road on the side of the Fire Station. This drive leads to  the Park Shop and the golf course parking lot. (On maps S. Bryan and City Park Drive appear to merge into the same street.) On the S side of the road more or less in front of the Park Shop building, there are two small trees. The one to the W is the Cornelian Cherry. Its tag currently is easy to find, although there are actually two separate identifiers on the tree. On 3/23/18 they did contradict each other, but the yellow flowers of the tree are the giveaway: This is the Cornelian Cherry.

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The trunk and bark of Cornus mas.