Do Persimmon Trees Have Seeds that Predict the Coming Winter?

Persimmon seeds may have been used as buttons in the Civil War.

 

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The bark of the persimmon tree looks as if it was made of building blocks.

The Ebony family (Ebenacea) consists of two genera, Euclea and Diospyros. The family contains between 400 and 500 species worldwide. The former genus contains ebony trees while Diospyros is made up of persimmons. Only two species of permisson are native to North American, the Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana) and the common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana.)

The common persimmon is found in about 3/5 of the lower 48. According to USDA publications, it grows in humid areas including the Mississippi River Valley, Long Island, and South Atlantic and Gulf states. For commercial development this same source recommends planting in areas that receive 48″ of precipitation.

This is a flowering tree. The flowers of the male and female are distinctive, with white-green male flowers in clusters. Female flowers are singular and more yellowy. The sex lives of these trees may be very involved as normally individual trees are either male or female. Occasionally male flowers appear on female trees and sometimes the flowers can self-pollinate.

Although occasionally referred to as white ebony, the uses of persimmon lumber are limited at least in part because of the small size of the tree. At one time golf club heads were made of this wood; according to Woodworking Network this is now more of a novelty. Due to its strength, persimmon wood has also been used for textile shuttles. Other uses include drumsticks. The wood can be turned and shaped with very sharp instruments.

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Persimmon leaves

The genus name Diospyros means fruit of the gods. Persimmons produce an edible fruit that is astringent when not fully ripe but becomes sweet after a frost (Sibley Guide to Trees, 2009.) A writeup from the University of Vermont reports the fruit increases antioxidant activity, is an anti-inflammatory, and helps prevent atherosclerosis. It is also reported to be high in vitamin C and calcium. Often the fruit, which is technically a berry, is dried, made into puddings, pies, jellies, cookies and even used to brew beer or make wine. This website has a recipe for beer from wild persimmons. The Old Farmers Almanac includes a recipe for persimmon bread as well.

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Leaves are oval and glossy,

Parts other than the fruit and lumber also have uses. The bark has been used in various forms to treat thrush, hemorrhaging, diphtheria, and even gonorrhea. The leaves may be made into a tea with purported health benefits. A newspaper article on the history of persimmons in the south mentions the seeds were used as buttons during the Civil War, while a second source says during that same war the seeds were ground up and used as a coffee substitute.

An unusual bit of folklore related to persimmon seeds is they may be able to predict weather! Again, the Farmers Almanac gives directions on how to use a split open seed to predict the coming winter.

The tagged Diospyros virginiana in City Park is a little more difficult to locate than other trees. To find it go to the western edge of the ball diamonds. It is near the southern tip of the northern field and is just outside the park boundaries in the golf course. Its unusual bark makes it easy to recognize. The National Champion Common Persimmon in Suffolk City, Va has a much larger circumference at 152 inches!

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As can be seen in this photo, it is one of the smaller trees in this area

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ussurian Pear: the Most Cold Hardy of Pear Trees

This pear is hardy to USDA Zone 3!

Like all pears, cherries, apples, and hawthorns, the Ussurian Pear is a member of the Rosaceae or rose family.

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The flowers of the Ussurian pear tree. These were one of the first trees to bloom in the park

The tree, also known as the Harbin pear or Chinese pear, is native to China, Japan, Korea, and the Ussuri river area, which forms a border between Russia and Manchuria. It is the most cold-hardy of the thirty or so pear species and will grow in USDA zone 3.

The seeds for the tree were brought to the United States in 1926 by a professor from South Dakota who gathered them near Harbin China. This date is disputed by the Morton Arboretum, which states their tree was planted in 1922. The pome of this species is said to be small, hard and not particularly delicious although it might improve in flavor after a frost. The amount of sugar the fruit contains varies widely between varieties.

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Early buds on the Ussurian pear tree

Some sources suggest it might be used for jellies. Although this website lumps the Harbin pear in with other Asian pears, it says the fruit may also have a tenderizing agent, making it good for marinades. In a chat group, another respondent suggested it might be worth trying to make a perry from the fruit.

In any case, the trees take up to eight years to produce fruit (pomes) and may live up to 300 years. The fruit is eaten by small mammals and birds. In the landscape the trees are used as a windbreak or as a specimen tree. Like most pears, Ussurian pears contain a compound that has antibacterial properties and may also serve as a flea and tick deterrent. 

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Ussurian pear tree still sporting snow bumpers

The Ussurian pear (Pyrus ussuriensis) in City park was planted in 1993 and had a trunk diameter of 3.5″. To find this tree: if you start at the intersection of Sheldon Drive and City Park and walk from the South East corner in a straight line south and east from the point of the intersection, you would find the tree between the the two playing fields. 

 

 

 

Limber Pine—Branches Flexible Enough You can Tie them in Knots

The tree grows under conditions which may prove too harsh for other species.

Limber pine (Pinus flexilis) is another species which may be susceptible to damage from the pine beetle. Like most other trees, this species has a number of alternate names, including Rocky Mountain pine. This conifer is native to the western states as well as the two westernmost Canadian providences.

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Trunk of the limber pine

In Colorado, it is found from elevations of 5000′ to 12,000′.  It is also native to Utah where it is reported to grow from elevations of 4000′  to 11000′. Limber pine in North Dakota grow below 3000′. The groves of trees in North Dakota are thought to have arisen from seeds carried to the area by various Native Americans.

Limber pine survive stressors which may prove too harsh for other species. For instance, it is able to grow under dry conditions. The bendable property of its branches may allow it to survive in avalanche prone areas and this trait may help with slope stabilization as well as runoff control. Limber pines also have deep taproots, which help with resistance to wind. This species provide food for rodents and birds, such as the Clark’s Nutcracker. In turn the seeds are too large to be blown far by the wind; birds, then are a means of distribution. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Although lumber from Pinus flexilis is of little commercial value today, in the past it was used in mines, as railroad ties, and as firewood. In herbal medicine the resin may be used like that of other pines—as an antiseptic and to help with respiratory conditions. The seeds can also serve as a food source for humans.

Limber pines are a long-lived species, which may not reach maturity until 200 years. (North American Trees, Preston and Braham.) Some of the oldest trees may be well over 1500 years. Even though some members of this species grow on windy ridges causing  twisting and stunting, others may approach sixty feet in height.

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Leaves of the limber pine

Pinus flexilis belongs to the the group of pines with their needles in bundles of five. These leaves grow to be between 2.5 and 3.5 inches in length. The female cones are green prior to maturity and may grow as long as seven inches.

Like many conifers of the mountain west, the limber pine may be affected by climate change and damage by various pests, including mountain pine beetles; a fungus which causes white pine blister rust; and drawf mistletoe. The fungus spread from Asia to Europe in the 1860s. It made its appearance in Wyoming on limber pines in 1970 and by the late 1990s was found in Colorado as well.

To find the tagged LIMBER PINE (Pinus flexilis) in the arboretum, C182, start near the SE corner of Sheldon Drive and City Park. A row of trees, including ashes and conifers, runs more or less parallel to City Park Drive. The limber pine is in the middle of a small cluster of conifers. In the middle of an open area is a park bench which is west of this small grove of trees. Another landmark might be the exercise station near this same corner. You could walk from there along the row of trees to find the pine. 

This specimen was planted in 1981 when it had a diameter of 8″. In the flesh it does not appear quite as scraggly as it does in the winter photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hong Song, Kimchee, Diabetes, and the Korean Pine.

The Korean pine is an important component of the habitat for the Siberian tiger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the name implies, this is not a tree native to the United States, although it may be grown here for its ornamental value. The American Conifer Society lists this species, Pinus koraiensis, as native to Korea and Japan. Other sources state it is also native to China and parts of Russia. Some of the musical names this pine is known as around the world are Hong Song, Chosen-goyo and Chosen-matsu.

A World Wildlife site links pine nut trees and their destruction as an important component in the decline of the Siberian (Amur) tiger, which may be extinct in North Korea. The seeds are a food source for both wild boar and deer, prey of the tigers. This same site blames the rising world demand for the lumber from this tree for its illegal logging.

The seeds are a food staple in Asia, and possibly one of few cash crops in parts of Russia. The leaves may be used as a dye. Various parts of the tree also have been used for medicinal purposes, including ear aches and weight loss.

Of interest is the possible satiety value of the seeds from this conifer. Researchers have reported the nuts are high in Pinolenic acid, which may act as an appetite suppressant and also help lower lipid levels. Other studies  suggest pine nut oil may have a role in diabetes control. These nuts are also used in Korean cuisine. The nuts, called Jat, are part of a number of dishes, from kimchee to fruit desserts. This website includes links to recipes.

This white pine with its five needles to a bunch, oldest specimen is reported to be at least  629 years old for a tree found in Mongolia. The tallest tree is reported to be just over 157 feet. This tree was found in mountains in the Russia/China/Mongolia area.

A nursery in Canada states its stock is grown from 100 year old Canadian trees, making it sound as if this species could survive in other areas of the world. The site also has a photograph of a standard-sized pine nut compared to a jumbo pistachio. The implication is that this is a fruitful and beneficial tree to grow for your own use. It states the harvesting of the nuts from the cones is an easy but sticky venture. Rhora’s Nut Farm and Nursery reports the trees produce cones starting at about 7 years, with a few producing as early as six. Each cone yields an average of seventy seeds. Korean pines are grown for nut production in many areas of the continent, including Michigan and Ontario.

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The Korean Pine

The Korean Pine, C134, in the City Park Arboretum may be found along Jackson Street, north of the wooden bridge if you are on the sidewalk. If you are driving, it is slightly north of Olive street. A fairly small tree, it undoubtedly was recently planted. The lack of any visible pine cones might help confirm its young age.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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