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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


	

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.

Finding the Purple Smoke Tree

The Tree’s name comes from the clusters of flowers, which resemble puffs of purple smoke.

I had never heard of the Purple Smoke Tree.  It is listed as one of the more unusual trees in the park.  We didn’t take the map with us, as I thought I knew where it was located–behind the Maintenance Shop, not far from Shelter #8. Memory–or the map–was deceiving because we couldn’t find the tree!

What is shown as the Maintenance Shop on the drawing happens to also be the Parks Office. Luckily it was before five, so I asked after the tree at the front desk. Megan knew where it was and was nice enough to show me. With its bushiness, you might have to spend a bit of time locating the tag! Apparently this tree has been introduced to the North American continent.

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Megan by the Purple Smoke Tree

As you can imagine, the tree wasn’t at its prime this late in the year. The tree’s name comes from the clusters of flowers, which are said to resemble puffs of purple smoke. Even in the fall, some of the stalk clusters still have a purple tinge.

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Smoke Tree “puff”

The green leaves had a sheen and felt tough, like thin leather. Other leaves had a purplish cast.

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Unlike other trees reviewed so far, this one doesn’t have many uses other than as an ornamental. The tree produces a yellow dye and the wood has been used for fenceposts. (North American Trees, Preston and Braham, 2002)

LOCATION  To find E3 Purple Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggyrria) go to the most southwest area of the park, across from Sheldon Lake. Locate the fire station on N. Bryan Ave. There is an alley on the south side and you can walk or drive down this. The tree is then on the southeast corner of front lawn of the Parks building. You can also access this tree by taking the road to the Golf Shop. Turn between the fire station and Parks Building. The specimen is in the far corner of the lawn. 

Eat your Redbud

Who knew the Redbud is both beautiful and edible, too?

 

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Blooming Redbud near a City Park exit

Ceres canadensis, the Eastern Redbud, is not native to Colorado. The native distribution is, as you probably guessed, the eastern half of the continent. As this map shows one of the western boundaries to be Nebraska, it might not be surprising that the many trees planted in Fort Collins appear to be hardy if planted in an appropriate spot. In spring the twigs and branches are covered with small red buds without any leaves. The buds then flower with petals colored from red to fuchsia. Some mentions of lavender are also made. When leaves appear, they are heart-shaped. The twists and turns of the branches give the Redbud a distinctly spreading, artistic form. An alternate name for the tree is The Judas Tree.

Redbuds, like the Soapberry and the Kentucky Coffeetree, are in the pea family. Similarly to the Soapberry, saponins are mentioned when discussing the ediblity of parts of the Redbud. Most sources do not suggest any parts are poisonous. Surprisingly, websites mention the buds and flowers can be used in salads or even added to cupcakes!  There are a number of videos on youtube about using the flowers and other parts of the tree as food. Another idea is pickling the buds to end up with a product similar to a caper. The fresh seed pods may also be edible. Other uses for this understory tree include using the red roots for a dye. The bark can be used to make an astringent tea for medicinal purposes. Native Americans were reported to use a tea of the bark as a whooping cough cure. The roots, too, were used to concoct cures for various ailments according the the USDA’s webpage.

Although spectacular as the earliest blooming tree in spring, the redbud has visual interest throughout the year. We’ll plan to add some photos of seasonal interest. I also hope to report on the taste of the flowers and buds next spring. Luckily, I have a small example of this tree in my yard. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be much of a bloomer, producing but a few buds and flowers each year.

The tagged tree is E117 on the Self-Guided Tour list. 

PA080001 The trunk of this specimen is split with a fungus growing up the gash in the tree. To find it, start at the corner of Jackson and Oak. You could park in the fourth or fifth parking slot on Oak and walk south toward the diagonal road a few yards. It is the largest of the smaller understory trees in that corner of the park. The split trunk is east facing. 

Although this is the only identified Redbud on the map, there are others in the park. It took quite a bit of staring at the map for me to figure out that the Redbuds seen at the top of the page are not the identified tree. The one featured blooming in the photo above is very close to the stone wall. The tagged tree is bit southwest and is a much larger version.

 If you were to walk along City Park Drive (the one-way diagonal road running east-west) to the intersection of  Sheldon Drive, you would encounter two other large older redbuds and their spreading branches. These have long been two of my favorite trees in the park.

Redbuds at the intersection of Sheldon and City Park Drives
Redbuds at the intersection of Sheldon and City Park Drive