Bees at the Bee-Bee Tree

Hundreds of saplings may grow under a female tree.

The Korean Evodia is another tree with a checkered history in North America. The Latin name for this tree included on the City Park Tree Guide is given as Evodia danielli but it appears Tetradium danielli  is also used. Other names include Bee tree, Bee-bee tree or bebe tree. Other sources include the name Honey tree and One Hundred Thousand Flower tree. The current USDA map shows it naturalized in Pennsylvania and Ohio, yet many other states are reporting it as having escaped.

Although Pennsylvania has this species on its watch list for invasive potential, at this point it is not known how it might damage the environment. A four-acre patch of escaped trees has been reported in Maryland. A short article published in 2017 gives more information about the nature of this tree and its invasive nature, stating that hundreds of saplings grow under a female tree and it has been seen outcompeting other invasive species such as the tree of heaven and Japanese stilt grass.

First brought to the United States in the early nineteen hundreds, this specimen is native to the Koreas, northwest China and other parts of Asia. Why is it given its various monikers?

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A cluster of buds for the Korean evodia or One Hundred Thousand Flower tree.

Although the many small blooms, in clusters that resemble poorly formed cauliflower heads, are rather high up and hard to see, bees swarm these late bloomers. It is the second week in September here in Colorado and the flowers are still blooming. Purportedly female flowers will turn to stunning red seed pods.

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Bees on the flowers of the Korean Evodia

This propensity for late blooming makes the tree popular with both bees and possibly beekeepers. Although many sites mention this as a nectar source, the references I found date to the 1970s with few current citations. One website suggests a substance made from the seeds is used as both a cooking and hair oil!

In the 1990s the US Forest Service lamented this tree was not used more often for ornamental purposes and suggested it would be a good street tree. Similar to the Amur cork tree, parts of Korean evodia have been used in Chinese medicine for 2000 years. It has been used to treat arthritis, headaches, gastric upset, and other ailments. Both WebMD and RxList suggest there is not enough evidence to show if any parts of the plant are effective.WebMD includes a number of drugs with which evodia may interact and cautions pregnant and breastfeeding women from using it. Surgical patients should also use caution as it might interfere with blood clotting.

C185 Korean Evodia (Evodia danielii) is either no longer tagged or the tag is nearly impossible to find when the tree is blooming. At the right time of year, though, it is fairly easy to identify by the many bees buzzing around its flowers and its somewhat unusual  shape. If you found the Amur Cork, walk slightly south and west from there. Although not perfectly aligned with Olive Street, you can also start from where Olive Street tees into Jackson and walk west and slightly south across the park to find it. It is near a large evergreen tree.

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Korean Evodia in August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amur Cork—Landscape Lovely or Harmful Invader?

First brought to the United States in 1856

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Amur cork tree

Amur cork  tree (Phellodendron amurenses) is native to China, Korea, and other areas of Asia. It was first brought to the United States in 1856 and grown in the Harvard Botanic gardens as early as 1908. From 1933 it has been reported to have naturalized in New York. Currently it is considered an invasive plant in a number of states. As an invasive plant it crowds out native trees and produces berries which are less nutritious than the nuts of native trees; its berries do not have the same essential fats needed for wildlife to survive through the winter.

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Leaves of the Amur cork tree

Some of the sources referenced above speculate that the trees were brought from Asia by railroad workers. The trees’ growth patterns have contributed to its “success” in crowding out native specie. By suppressing the growth of canopy trees, it has become one of the dominate trees in eastern states. Although many states warn against planting Amur cork, others suggest Phellodendron amurenses is a good landscape variety. A few suggest only male trees be considered. This might be a reasonable solution in areas were there are no others, but in areas where the trees have naturalized, the male tree may still fertilize female trees and add to the problem.

Possibly one of the reasons Amur Corks were originally brought to North America is that it is considered to be one of the fifty most important herbs used in Chinese medicine. Some of its compounds have been used to treat meningitis, arthritis, cancers, and diseases of the lungs. The Ainu population of Japan also used parts of this tree as a painkiller.

WebMD mentions most of the uses above. It also states some of the trees’ compounds, such as berberine, might lower blood sugar and LDL cholesterol. At the same time they include warnings about possible harmful effects. There is limited scientific research to support usage.

Other non-medicinal uses have been mentioned; older literature suggests the bark as a substitute for cork.

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The corky trunk of the Amur Cork Tree

It may be used for cork in Russia. An oil made from seeds may have insecticidal properties. A yellow dye obtained from inner layers of bark, was used to produce yellow-tinted paper, useful in distinguishing the important of various Chinese documents.

The Amur cork tree (C138) may be found in City Park  where Olive Street intersects with Jackson Street. As can be seen in the photo at the beginning of this post, the tree is almost directly across from Olive Street street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the Firs Whose Tags You See

The cones and needles may be the clues to telling firs from spruces.

Many years ago I went on a ranger talk in a national park and have always remembered the meme “Friendly fir, prickly pine.” A lot of good that does when it comes to spruce, although a landscape architect friend added “spikey” for spruce. After running my hands over the leaves of some of the firs, though, I don’t think that learning aid is completely accurate. Many firs and spruce look disconcertingly similar. The Norway spruce, Picae abies, even shares part of its name with the firs, whose genus is Abies. One way to tell a spruce from a fir is the direction in which the cones grow. Usually trees with cones pointing up are firs. The needles on firs are also flat compared to those of spruces. In the photo below, all the pieces, except the White Fir, lie flat on the background. In the case of the subalpine, the Nordmann, and the Fraser fir, the backside of the needles can be seen to be of a lighter color, too.

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The needles on the six tagged Abies trees in the park. What looks like stray marks are actually the needles, showing how flat and thin individual ones are.

There are six identified true firs in City Park. Of these, the Subalpine, Corkbark, and White Fir are native to Colorado.

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Subalpine Fir

Subalpine fir (Abies lasciocarpa) ranges over the western half of the continent. It is also native to Larimer County (Flora of Colorado, Jennifer Ackerfield, 2015.) The tree itself is useful in watersheds and rehabilitating the land. Various parts of the tree were of use to Native Americans as shingles, bedding, and medicinally. This species normally does not produce cones until it is twenty or more years old. Most of the Colorado state champion subalpine fir are found in the San Juan National Forest. The oldest trees, including one found in Wyoming, are around 500 years old. The tallest measure over 172 feet.

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Leaves of the subalpine fir.
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Trunk of subalpine fir.

The Corkbark (Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica) is a variant of the subalpine fir found only in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. It does not produce cones until it is over fifty years of age. Trees can be found on Wolf Creek Pass and in the mountains of northern New Mexico, although the champion tree has been listed variously as in Arizona or near Ruidoso, NM.  Its wood is the lightest of American trees and has little value as lumber.

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Corkbark Fir
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The trunk of the Corkbark Fir is very white
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A branch of the Corkbark Fir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Firs are native to the Northwest. The layout of the needles on this conifer seem to be the flattest of the firs in the park and have an almost fernlike appearance. The trees take 200-250 years to mature and are grown for Christmas trees in this country and for lumber in Europe. Native Americans used the needles medicinally, as well as for a baby powder and a cure for baldness. The essential oils of firs have many uses including as a stimulate, deodorant, expectorant, and air freshener.

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The Grand Fir near the ditch
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Grand Fir leaves

The Fraser Fir is found in limited areas of the American south. Due to its remoteness and small distribution, its primary use is in watershed management. It is also grown commercially for Christmas trees. Sources list various types of trees as the best/most popular for Christmas; the Fraser fir is usually toward the top of the list. Fir varieties have been used for the Capitol Christmas tree fifteen times.

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Fraser Fir .

 

The Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmannia) is native to Asia Minor, where it is a popular Christmas tree.

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Nordmann Fir

The last of the six firs mapped in the park is the White Fir, (Abies concolor) although the tag could not be located. As can be seen on the mat with the needles above, this tree does not look that much like the other firs in the park. Its leaves are 2-3″ in length and it doesn’t lie as flat, although the individual needles are so flat they seem one dimensional!

The white fir is seen throughout most of the west and, according to the USDA map, is also native to Maine and Massachusetts. The US Forest Service distinguishes between a California white fir and a Rocky Mountain white fir. On conifers.org, another writer says white fir may be a catch-all name and that the species may have geographical variations.  The Forest Service mentions the trees can live between three and four hundred years. It is of significant use for wildlife, is used for Christmas trees, some smaller construction projects, and for food containers as its wood has little odor.

Yosemite boasts the largest white firs of the California branch of the species. The tallest tree in the Rocky Mountain group can be seen in the Hermosa Creek area of the San Juan mountains, the same area of the tall Colorado Blue Spruce.

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White Fir on the right.

Locating the Firs: All but one of the tagged firs are on the west side of the park, west of the ditch. It is probably most advantageous to park near the pool or in the ballpark lot. If you are walking, you could start at either end. The directions below are from the ballpark parking lot.

Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmannia) E41 This fir is located between the Fort Collins Housing Authority, 1715 W. Mountain, the building at the far N end of the ballpark parking lot, and the N baseball diamond. It is the only evergreen tree planted by itself in this spot.

Grand Fir (Abies grandis) E31 From the south section of the parking lot, walk between the the restrooms and the office building. The Grand fir is the evergreen just past the pedestrian bridge over the ditch that runs along S. Bryan. (If you are walking from the main body of the park, it is easy to cross the bridge over the ditch. The Grand Fir is then the first evergreen to your left.)

Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri) E29 Continue walking past the basketball court to the small clump of trees, three of which are conifers. The smaller tree planted by itself is the Fraser Fir. The tag is up quite high and may be difficult to read.  

White Fir (Abies concolor) E28 Just beyond the Fraser Fir are two towering trees. The tree to the west does not look particularly healthy. The tree to the east should be the White Fir, but its tag is not to be found. (If you DO find it, please let me know in a comment.)

Both the white and Fraser fir can be accessed from City Park Drive by entering the park through either the entrance to Shelter #7, or an informal entrance between a break in the fence and the stonewall of the road bridge over the ditch.)

Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa) E19 The last fir in this area of the park can be located by walking W toward the Big Chair, which is an example of Art in Public Places. The subalpine fir is just south of this chair, the only evergreen in the area. 

If you are viewing this specimen on a separate occasion, you could park in the golf course parking lot and walk back along the road to a break in the fence. The tree is then to the East.

Corkbark Fir (Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica) C132. This tree is at the opposite end of the park, along Jackson Avenue. It is across the street from 220 or 222 Jackson Ave, near one of the workout stations. 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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