December is for Christmas Trees and Our First is a Champion

A popular tree to decorate for Christmas

Every year trees are brought to the nation’s capitol to adorn the Capitol lawn, outside the Whitehouse, and sometimes in the interior of the Whitehouse. The National Christmas Tree has been displayed, cut or planted, in the President’s Park as well as other spots. This tradition started in 1923. The most common tree used is a variety of spruce.

Although the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree tradition began before 1970, every year since then a different national forest has provided the tree. The White Spruce has been the tree of choice twelve times, the most of any single species. The tagged White Spruce (Picea glauca) in the City Park Arboretum near the intersection of City Park and Sheldon Drive is not only a native to Colorado, but a state champion tree. This tree probably does not call to mind a tree to decorate, though, as it is quite tall and somewhat spindly looking.

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The State Champion White Spruce

The USDA shows this species as having a very northern range, including Wyoming, but not Colorado. The Forest Service shows its range as even more restrictive. North American Trees (Preston and Braham, 2002) appears to agree with the USFS. The map on the Gymnosperm Database  also shows the distribution as very northern, mostly Canada, but goes on to list a number of states where the tree is native, again Wyoming but not Colorado. North American Trees says these trees do not reach maturity until 250-300 years and the Gymnosperm Database says the oldest tree, growing in the Yukon, is over 668 years old.

White spruce lumber has been used for sounding boards in violins and other instruments, for pulp, general construction, and Christmas trees. The National Christmas Tree Association suggests their short needles make them ideal for hanging ornaments.  I examined the branches of the tree I bought for my house this year, and I’m thinking it very well may be a white spruce.

The tree is significant for wild life and its roots were used by Native Americans to weave baskets and bind canoes. A British Columbian website includes making snowshoes and bows in its uses. Resin was turned into a gum to stick arrowheads to arrows. Like most of the other trees reported on thus far, this one, too, has medicinal properties, including antiseptic, respiratory, and wound care. It has also been investigated for its relation to diabetes!

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The needles and cone of the White Spruce

This specimen (A94) can be located by studying the tall conifers at the Northeast corner of City Park and Sheldon Drive. There are ten trees on this corner, but only two of them are conifers. The more northern of the two is the tagged tree, although I suspect the second tree is also a white spruce.

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White Spruce bark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The confounding Mountain Ashes

Mountain ashes are not true Ash trees and are not subject to ash borer.

First, mountain ash trees are not really ash trees. True ash trees are in the olive family while mountain ash trees are in the rose family. There are five types of mountain ash listed on the Arboretum guide and I’m discussing them all here, partly because there isn’t much to say about specific cultivars. 

We first located the Oakleaf Mountain Ash (Sorbus x  thurgingiaca Quercifolia). This might be the most local of local trees as it was cultivated in Cheyenne! This particular tree seems both similar and different from those discussed below. It has similar slits in its bark, yet these are more vertical, not horizontal. There is a slight sheen to the bark and it appears thinner than the bark of other trees. The leaves are not similar to the other mountain ashes, but resemble oak leaves.

Oak Leaf Mountain Ash
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Oakleaf mountain ash leaves in fall

A76 is located near the pottery studio (corner of S. Bryan and Oak Street.) 

The other four Sorbus trees are at the other end of Oak Street and have leaves that resemble “real” ash trees.

The American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana) is native to the Eastern part of the continent, but has been introduced to most of the rest of the continental US, including Colorado. B106 is across the street from 1334 W. Oak Street. The bark of this small tree is reddish with a metallic sheen. There are horizontal lines that resemble healed cuts across the bark and visible reddish berries (pomes) in the upper branches. Native Americans such as the Algonquin and Ojibwa ate the berries from this and related species. 

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American Mountain Ash bark. Notice the metallic sheen.

The European Mountain Ash  (Sorbus aucuparia) has been introduced to much of the northern part of North America. In England these are referred to as Rowans and the berries are made into jams and sometimes wine. There seems to be controversy about how tasty these are as many say they are bitter and must be cooked or undergo numerous freezes on the tree before they are edible. According to the source above, the berries are a good source of vitamins A, C and niacin. The Rowan also has a place in many European mythologies and is considered by some to have magical powers. Its wood has been made into walking sticks and spinning wheels.

It appears there are two cultivars of the European Mountain ash in City Park. B109 Cardinal Royal Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia Cardinal Royal) is near the Kentucky Coffee Tree, across from 1316 West Oak. The bark of this tree is very grey-green, more reddish at the base.

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Cardinal Mountain Ash bark

The other cultivar is the Russian Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia Rossica.) B102 is across from the intersection of McKinley and Oak. As is noted in the write-up referenced above, this tree, with its yellow-green tinged skin, seems to have more noticeable berries. 

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Russian Mountain Ash trunk
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This straggly tree IS NOT a mountain ash at all but a linden!

The last mountain ash tree in City Park is the Showy Mountain Ash (Sorbus decor), which once again is native in the northeastern part of the continent where it is also known as the Northern Mountain Ash. I made many trips across the street to locate this tree. What I finally settled on as B103 wasn’t particularly showy and was very difficult to find. Possibly this is because it is not tagged, and it is also not very large, which might have an effect on some of its notable properties, such as large, showy berries. See for yourself. Would you have known this was a showy tree?

UPDATE 3/23/18: Today I spoke with City Forestry Specialist, Molly Roche. No wonder I had such a difficult time finding the Showy Mountain Ash. It ISN’T THERE. After it was discovered not thriving, it was removed and replaced with a Legend Linden. THAT is what the not particularly showy tree actually is! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Champion Larch in City Park

The Colorado Tree Coalition publishes a list of state championship trees. It also has a map of a tree tour of notable Ft. Collins trees.http://coloradotrees.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Notable_FtCollins.pdf

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The Championship Larch on Jackson Street, November 2017

Yes, we have a State Champion tree in City Park. The European Larch is an impressive tree and once you know what it looks like, easy to find. This particular tree is hidden in with a bunch of conifers. What distinguishes a larch from other conifers? It’s deciduous and loses it leaves, which the uninitiated would call needles. The big tree isn’t the only example of a larch in the park. There is a recently planted–in the last ten or fifteen years—larch just behind the Kentucky Coffeetree. This second tree is tall and spindly while the champion tree is tall, sturdy, and spooky looking.

The distribution of the European larch, which is an introduced, non-native tree, is, as you may have guessed, the eastern part of the US and Canada. Its range is less than the many other trees reported on so far. North American Trees reports European Larch “is planted and sometimes escapes”! According to the 1932 pamphlet European Larch in the Northeastern United States by Stuart Hunt, larch was introduced into England in 1629 and into the US in the mid 1800s, in both cases for lumber.  If you are a fan of the Great British Bake-off, you might have noticed a larch outside the baking tent. The largest larch in the world may be one in Switzerland which also may be 900 years old! It makes our larch look like an anemic relative by comparison.

Many authors report larch wood is fire resistant and was used in Roman ship and bridge building for that reason. Current uses include utility poles, veneer,  boat building, furniture, and fencing. The pitch can be tapped to be used as a varnish and for waterproofing boats and roofs. The bark has been used medicinally or ground and added to flour.  Another source mentions Siberians collected the leaves, fermented them and used them as a salad in winter.

The larch also has a place in mythology and pagan rituals, as well wand material in Harry Potter. Larches may be planted for cremation ceremonies, used to ward off evil spirits or burned to inhale the smoke and promote visions.

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Looking up through the branches the tree truly does look magical.

To find our champion Larix decidua (E117) park near the corner of Jackson and Oak. The five-way corner at the NE entrance to the park forms a triangle on the S side of the stone entrance with the row of trees being one side. In the center of these conifers is the Larch. It is probably easiest to locate when its leaves are yellowed and before they all fall, making it a good tree to find in the late fall/early winter.  The tree is across from 210 Jackson. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


	

Paperbark Maple- An Endangered Tree

Winter interest in the beautiful bark.

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Paperback Maple

The Paperbark Maple, Acer griseum, is not listed in North American Trees, nor does the USDA have a page for its range. The University of Florida, though, shows it growing in most states except the most southern, including Florida! The tree is native to central China, although according to Plants of the World Online it is endangered. Although the trees are available from nurseries and grow in zones 4-8, their primary use is ornamental. Although the tree was introduced into Europe in the early 1900s, little seems to be written about any uses of the leaves, bark, or lumber. Most merely state it is lovely to look at in the garden.

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Leaves against the cinnamon colored bark of Acer grissom

Due to its distinctively colored bark, this tree is identifiable and showy even in winter.

To find E57search S. Bryan Street between Oak Street and City Park Drive. The tree is on the strip between the road and the ditch, across from the large shelter S of the Pottery Studio. 

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Close up the curling red bark. Paperback Maple

 

Gingko Tree–Most Unique Tree in the World?

A tree that hasn’t changed in 200 million years

I had no idea. Of course I’ve been bombarded with ads for the wonderful  memory properties of gingko biloba although I never tried it. I didn’t even know it was a tree, nor did I know it grew not only in the United States but right in our own City Park. My tree course mentioned there was a single species, family, and phylum for this tree, but it wasn’t until I started to research it that I learned the tree is a living fossil and hasn’t changed in over 200 million years!

According to the USDA map, the Ginkgo tree was introduced to the US. It is not widely distributed throughout the states, but seems to be very popular in New York and four or five other Eastern states.  Mississippi also has an affinity for this tree. The Gingko appears to be able to withstand the stress of city living, which might be one of the reasons they are very popular in New York City. According to one source, there are 21,611 Ginkgo trees in the city, a map or which can be seen here.

Once you see a Gingko leaf with its fan-like shape, the trees seem easy to identify. Although  there is only one tagged specimen in the park, I’m sure I found a leaf near a denuded tree very far away, too.

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Fan-shaped Gingko leaves as they start to turn in the fall.

Gingkos are often called the oldest trees or most unique plant on earth as they are the only species in their class, have not changed much in 200 million years, and have no close relatives. Peter Crane, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, has written a book about the tree, Ginkgo (Yale University Press, 2013) and was interviewed about the tree here.

I did not encounter any seeds from the one tree in City Park, but they are said to be both messy and smelly, producing a compound that is common in rancid butter. Crane says they smell like vomit. Due to this, usually only male trees are planted. I’m assuming this tree is male, although the same source indicated that the trees don’t produce seeds until they are thirty-forty years old.

Similar to the tenet “form follows function” of the Arts and Crafts and other architectural movements, the herbal uses of this tree seem to relate to its biological history. Most of the medicinal uses  relate to many problems associated with aging, such as heart trouble, macular degeneration, tinnitus, as well as it best known use as an herb to improve memory. Components of the plant have long been used in Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Indonesian medicine.

For those of you who might like to explore more about this fascinating tree, there is an all-encompassing blog that includes a history of some of the most interesting Gingko trees from around the world, the use of the leaves in art, and even a Gingko lullaby.

To find this tree, also known as the Maidenhair tree, look for A72 on the map. Basically it is across from the entrance to City Park Pool, right in front of the picnic shelter #6 on the corner of S. Bryan and City Park Drive.  Without its leaves, it looks much smaller than this picture!P9290007-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The R2D2 Prototype–Weeping Mulberry Trees

The mulberry fruit might be considered a nutritional powerhouse.

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Great backyard tree for hide and seek.

I ate mulberries for the first time three or four years ago. When I first saw them at the farmers’ market, I thought they were blackberries, which is pretty much what they taste like. I’ve looked every year since, but the person who was selling them hasn’t been back. The truth is, I didn’t even know they grew on trees. When I mentioned I’d love to have a tree, people in the know gave me horrified looks. “They’re messy.”  “They stain everything,” were common refrains.

There are ten species of mulberry tree, with three native to parts of North America.  Although I have memories of purple-black splots on sidewalks under trees, I don’t believe I knew these were from a fruit bearing tree. White Mulberries (Morus alba) were originally brought to this continent from China with the intent to start a silkworm industry. According to the USDA, the white tree has been introduced and grown in all of the lower 48 states except Nevada. The red mulberry (Morus rubra) is native to the eastern half of this continent. In some areas, the white mulberry may be considered invasive. One way to tell the two species apart is by the shiny leaves of the white mulberry.

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Shiny leave

Not only are mulberries yummy, they could be considered a nutritional powerhouse as they are relatively high in protein, contain high levels of Vitamin C and iron, as well as numerous other potentially beneficial nutrients. Compounds such as anthocyanins, may exhibit cholesterol lowering properties. Rutin, an antioxidant, may help guard against heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Myricetin, too, may play a role fighting some cancers. Other websites attribute even more wondrous properties to the mulberry fruit, such as an aid in weight loss, vision improvement, and bone building. Although this might be a property of a different variety of Morus tree, another source mentions the fruit is a source of resveratrol, that miracle compound of red wine much ballyhooed a few years ago.

The weeping mulberry tree, Morus alba Pendula, is a dwarf variety of the Chinese tree. Some of the gardening sites on the web discuss this tree as a good provider of shade, but except for fighting your way through the branches–which you might have to do to find the identifying tag–the versions in the park wouldn’t seem to provide much shade. Although I had not been paying close attention to the two specimens during the spring when they would have fruited, I have stopped and looked at these trees over the years and have never seen flowers or fruit. I suspect they may both be male specimens of the tree. Next year I will be sure to confirm the absence of the fruit.

To view the two in the park go to C190. If you spent time at the Tulip Tree, keep walking west along the diagonal. The two stubby trees are on the south side of City Park Drive, not far from the intersection with Sheldon Drive. If you are driving to the park, turn N off Mulberry onto Sheldon Drive and at the intersection of the two streets, take a right turn along the diagonal. The trees are West of Field 4 and across from the “permanent” latrine.

As an ornamental tree, the weeping mulberry is visually interesting without its leaves. If you are looking for this tree in late fall or winter, look for a form like an open umbrella with too many twisted spines and no cloth covering.

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What shapes can you see in the trunk?

Leaf First–The Tulip Tree

The bark may have been used as an aphrodisiac.

Another deciduous tree native to the eastern half of the US and Canada, Liriodendron tulipifera is a tall, relatively fast growing tree, which may grow to 90-120′. The same source (North American Trees, Preston and Braham ) says it matures in 200-250 years! Sometimes it is called a Yellow Poplar, although it is in the magnolia family.

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Tulip tree leaf. Some say these look like women’s tee shirts.Ohers think they resemble a tulip flower.

I first found a leaf, the shape of which I couldn’t identify. It had drifted near the Kentucky Coffeetree but didn’t come from any of the other trees nearby. It took me awhile to find the matching tree behind a number of conifers along City Park Drive. It took even longer to figure out the name of the tree as it is sometimes difficult to match the identified dots on the map with trees, which may be unmarked or have a difficult tag to locate. The branches of the Tulip Tree are far above my head, a trait the USDA states is typical. Another identifying feature is the straightness of the trunk. North American Trees says this is one of the tallest and widest trees in the east.

On the Wood Database site, the lumber for this tree is listed under Yellow Poplar, although its latin name, Liriodendron tulipfera, identifies it as the correct tree. The wood from these trees has been used for berry buckets and canoes, as well as lumber. It also makes good kindling for a fire. Although the wood’s utility as kindling would seem to contradict it, logs have been used to build cabins and the bark was used for roofing. North American Trees suggests the wood may also be made into coffins. Others have used the bark to produce rope. Although one source says the flower buds taste like turpentine, squirrels apparently are partial to them.

Over the years this tree had a number of medicinal uses. As with many trees, a powder made of the bark had been used for “digestive problems” as well as arthritis. Leaves and buds have been used as poultices on burns and for other skin ailments. One of the most interesting uses of the tree bark was as an aphrodisiac either chewed or brewed into a bitter tea. Another helpful use of the bark was as a substitute for quinine, used to treat malaria. At least one contemporary author wondered how a Tulip Tree and Tonic would taste!

Most resources do not mention this tree as a good source of food, although this video  suggests there is a treat hidden in the flowers. Although I walk past this specimen many times a week, I can’t say I ever noticed the spring flowers. This might be because the first branches are far above my head. I am not likely to be able to grab a branch to sip the nectar as the woman in the short video does!

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The bark and leaves

LOCATION. The Tulip Tree is B113 on the Arboretum map. I wasn’t able to find the tag on the tree. The easiest way to locate the tree is probably by finding a leaf under it, as well as viewing the photo below. This tree is slightly south and west of the redbud. You might enter the park through the stone entry and walk the wrong down the one-way street.  The street curb can be

 

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Tulip Tree forefront. Conifers behind it

seen in the photo above. From the entry, this may be the closest large tree to the road on the North side.