Chinese Pistache: There’s More Than Meets the Eye

(Pistacia chinensis)

112_lg_3[1]Sometimes nicknamed the ‘ugly duckling’ in the tree world, the Chinese pistache is often snubbed because of its unattractive and misshapen early stages. Although born into rough beginnings, the tree develops into an impressive specimen. It’s a hardy tree and commonly used in dry landscapes.

As the name predicts, the Chinese pistache is related to the pistachio tree, although it does not produce any nuts. Not only is this tree heat and drought-tolerant, but it is also winter hardy AND pest and fire resistant. Talk about resilience! Here are a few things to note if you’re looking to add one to your yard.

112_lg_2[1]Environmental Factors

  • Grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, silty loam, well-drained and clay soils (hardiness zones 6-9).
  • Grows 1-2 feet a year, reaching 25-35 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least 6 hours of direct unfiltered sunlight a day

Physical Attributes

  • Produces panicles of greenish flowers in April & May.
  • Withstands heat quite well and tolerates urban conditions.
  • Provides vibrant fall foliage with shades of orange and red.

Do you have a Chinese pistache? Share a picture!

Sourwood: A Sweet Surprise

(Oxydendrum arboretum)

What if there were a tree with scented flowers and tart leaves that shaded you from the sun’s heat in the summer and amused you with vibrant foliage in the fall, would you be interested? The sourwood tree does just that. This tree is exclusive to North America and isn’t found on other continents unless planted there. Named after the tangy flavor of its leaves, the sourwood tree is full of wonder. Sourwood blossom

Mountain climbers and hikers quench their thirst by making tea with sourwood leaves, and pioneers used the sap in a mixture for treating fevers. Agonizing from mouth pain? Early settlers chewed the bark as relief from mouth ulcers. Additionally, bees make honey from the nectar of sourwood flowers—rumor has it sourwood honey is among the best quality. Aside from the natural remedies sourwood boasts, this tree is a natural beauty. Check out a few of these tree care tips if you’re considering adding a sourwood for your yard.

Environmental Factors

  • Grows 1-2 feet a year, reaching 25-30 feet at maturity.
  • Although it is native to the south, it will grow in a variety of hardiness zones (5-9).
  • Prefers normal moisture but has some drought tolerance. Grows in acidic, loamy, moist, well-drained and clay soils. Avoid alkaline or compacted soils.
  • Does best in full sun, getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day, but will tolerate partial shade.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, white flowers in late summer (June to early July) that resemble lilies-of-the-valley.
  • Can live up to 200 years if planted at the right site.
  • Bees produce high quality honey from the blossoms of the tree that is said to have a caramel or buttery flavor.
  • Offers vibrant fall color with leaves turning crimson, purplish-red and sometimes yellow. The numerous uses that stem from the sourwood give this tree some merit. Its shorter height make it a great contender to plant in your yard, or in front of a backdrop of taller trees.

Do you have a sourwood? Share a picture below!

August is Tree Check Month: Are Your Trees Safe?

In case you haven’t heard, August is Tree Check Month and taking a few minutes from your day to examine your trees for pest threats could save you some grim damage down the road. August is a time of peak emergence for the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) who earned a reputation for threatening recreational areas, forests and suburban shade trees. If ALB were to become widely established in the U.S., it would have a severe impact on the timber, maple syrup, tree nursery and tourism industries and would take decades to recover.

ALB

Spot the Signs

Besides seeing the beetle itself there are distinctive signs to look for while examining your trees.

  • Round Exit Holes– adult beetles chew their way out of the tree, leaving one-quarter inch exit holes.
  • Oval or round-shaped egg sites- female beetles chew up to 90 oval depressions, called oviposition sites, or egg sites, into the bark of the host tree, and then lay a single egg beneath the bark resembling a wound on the tree.
  • Accumulation of frass- As the larvae feed they leave a sawdust-like excrement on the ground or branches.
  • Weeping sap- Tree sap may be seen from the wounds or egg sites left by the beetle.
  • Tunneling- Larva tunnel through the layers of the tree.
  • Pupal chambers- beetle larvae inside the tree will develop (pupate) in a chamber or area in the tree, turning into adult.
  • Unreasonable yellowing or dropping of leaves- If you see leaves turning colors sooner than they should be, or broken, dead, or dying branches, this can be a sign that something is wrong.

Trees at risk

Read up on last year’s blog post August is Tree Check Month: Is your tree safe from Asian Long-horned Beetle? to learn more about ALB. ALB isn’t the only pest you should watch out for, check out Six Pests You Should Know About to stay proactive in your tree’s health.

Report It

If you think you’ve spotted signs of damage from ALB contact your state ALB eradication program office or plant health director’s office.

Washington Hawthorn: A Blossom Amongst Thorns

 (crataegus phaenopyrum)

Washington-Hawthorn_1-846[1]If you’re looking to fill in the open spaces in your yard, or just add a bit of color to your landscaping, the Washington hawthorn is a great option. First introduced to Pennsylvania from Washington, the tree earned its name because of its prominent thorns.

Legend has it that Paul Bunyan used the Washington hawthorn’s branches as a back scratcher. Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding one to your landscape.

Environmental Factors

  • Grows 1-2 feet a year reaching 25-30 feet at maturity.
  • Versatile tree, growing in a wide variety of hardiness zone (4-8).
  • Prefers full sun (6 hours of direct sunlight a day).
  • Drought-tolerant, grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms white flowers with reddish-purple leaves.
  • Produces bright red berries that hang until the winter. It is popular amongst birds.
  • Develops thorns on its branches, making it an effective barrier.
washington hawthorn berry

Flickr | Taryn Domingos

Do you have a Washington hawthorn in your yard? Share a picture below!

Russell Moore, Engineering consultant, Soldotna, AK

portrait-Russell-Moore[1]Trees on Former Maintenance Site Reduce Runoff and Improve View

When Russell Moore’s parents built their home on Soldotna Creek, he says you could look over the water and see vegetation except at the Department of Transportation maintenance yard where the trees were gone.

In 2013, the Soldotna Parks and Recreation Department undertook a transformation project at the site to enlarge Soldotna Creek Park, a recreational area on the Kenai River. With a grant from the U.S. Forest Service administered by the Alaska Division of Forestry, trees were planted with the intent of the site serving as a large rain garden, reducing surface water runoff into the adjoining waterways.

figure1-Russell-Moore[1]When Russell heard of the project, he was excited and jumped into the project to personally participate. Russell and community members are thrilled with the results. “I can now see the trees from across the river. They are going to grow, and as they mature, they will have the presence the community will enjoy when they visit the park. For those who live across the river, the trees will help enhance their view to the other side.” He adds, “I feel good to have been a part of the park’s renovation and to know that people beyond us will be able to enjoy it.”

Check out our other Faces of Urban Forestry.

Texas Ebony: The Deciduous Evergreen

Flickr | Dick Culbert

(Pithecellobium flexicaule)

Although summer may be dwindling down, the heat of the sun and limited rainfall is not backing off. This year’s current conditions could be a hint to what next summer will be like. If you’re planning ahead for alternative ways to stay cool in the long-run, then planting a tree is the way to go.

As the name implies, the Texas ebony is native to Texas and only grows in the southwest region of the country. This tree has several unique traits, a notable one being that it doesn’t drop its leaves. If you’re searching for The Right Tree in the Right Place and are limited on space, then check out what this tree can offer to your landscape.

Environmental conditions

  • Grows in several different soils including acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained and clay. Can survive in the driest conditions once tree is established.
  • Grows at medium growth rate of 1-2 feet a year, and can reach anywhere from 35-80 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes

  • This is an evergreen tree and keeps its dense foliage year-round.
  • Blooms fragrant, creamy white and yellow flowers and has 4-6 inch brown seed pods. Fun fact: the seeds have been dried and made into jewelry and shells have been used as an alternative to coffee.
  • Can grow in compact spaces, making it a practical choice if you don’t have a lot of yard space. (Has a spread of 20-30 feet).The Texas ebony is a wonderful tree if you’re looking for shade but don’t have the space. You get the benefit of a larger shade tree with its dense foliage and colorful flowers, and the advantage of an evergreen with year-round foliage

    TX ebony leaves

    Flickr | Wendy Cutler

Do you have a Texas ebony? Share a picture below!

 

 

 

 

When Science Meets Art: The Tree of 40 Fruit

Tree Grafting is an old practice of inserting a section of a stem with leaf buds into the stock of another tree. It’s a way of bringing two varieties of fruits together in a single tree. It’s also used in repairing injured trees and produces more fruits on each tree. The sight of a grafted tree is quite the marvel.

Sam Van Aken is a professor at Syracuse University and an artist who has been grafting trees for years. Among his pieces is a single tree that produces more than 40 varieties of stone fruits including peaches, plums and nectarines— thus the name The Tree of 40 Fruit. Because of the varieties of fruits brought together, when the tree blossoms it does so in different hues of pink, crimson and white.

The end result will leave you in awe.

What do you think of tree grafting?

Barbara O’Brien, Retired librarian, Tucson, AZ

Pathway Planting Leads to Safer and Friendlier Neighborhood

portrait-Barbara-O'Brien[1]“I always wanted to be a forest ranger, but I became a librarian,” says Barbara O’Brien. Now, she says, “I’m a mini-forest ranger.”

Barbara’s chance to work with trees in the great outdoors came when Trees for Tucson, the City of Tucson and the Broadmoor- Broadway Village Neighborhood Association’s Urban Forestry Committee joined forces to transform a rocky, six-block-long dirt pathway into one that was more attractive, less prone to crime and more easily walked by senior citizens. The result is a paved walkway with palo verde, desert willows and other drought-tolerant native trees on one side and – under utility lines on the other side – a variety of desert flowers and shrubs donated by gardeners in the area.figure1-Barbara-O'Brien[1]

Besides the physical transformation, less crime and increased use for exercise and fresh air, the benefits from this project came from having neighbors do the planting. Work days, as well as tours and special events, continue to be scheduled along the pathway. Barbara reports, “Neighbors from here and from blocks away come out on a Sunday or Saturday with shovels and go to work. You’re meeting people you wouldn’t meet ordinarily because your paths don’t cross. I’ve lived here for 25 years, and I’ve known neighbors who live close by. But now I know people blocks away.”

 

Desert-Willow: The Tree That Blooms in Drought

(Chilopsis linearis)

desert willow flower

Flickr | Gailhampshire

Mother Nature doesn’t always work in our favor when it comes to nurturing our garden. Although many plants adapt to unpredictable environmental conditions, there are still a number of trees and shrubs that are too stubborn to conform. It can be especially challenging to landscape your yard if you live in an arid climate where water is scarce. The selections are limited, and planting a tree outside of your hardiness zone isn’t wise.

The Desert-Willow is quite deceiving; despite the name this tree has no relation to the willow other than its resembling appearance.  In fact, unlike willows, this tree cannot grow in wet or heavy soils. As the name implies, desert-willows prefer dry conditions and full sun. They are an extremely drought-tolerant species once established. If you’ve been struggling to find a flowering tree resilient enough to put up with the heat, then check out a few of the qualities this tree can bring to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • Desert-willow is a medium growing tree, growing 1-2 feet a year and reaching 15-25 feet in height.
  • This tree loves full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • It is a versatile tree and will grow in most soils as long as it is well drained. This includes acidic, alkaline, loamy, sandy and clay. Grows in hardiness zones 7-9. 

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, pink flowers midsummer and has 10” papery pods that hang in the winter. Note that these pods will drop seeds and attract wildlife.
  • Usually develops multiple trunks and many branches, making it useful as a wide screen or tall hedge.  Added bonus: the tree can be pruned into a bush. The more it is pruned, the more it flowers.
  • Have willow-like leaves that are long and slender.
desert willow pods

Flickr | Jason Hollinger

If you’re in the Western United States then you may not be a stranger to the desert-willow. It’s a versatile tree that can add color to your landscape. Do you have one in your yard? Share a picture below!

Tery Hursh, Physician Assistant and Clinic Owner, Dillon, MT

Trees Bring People Downtown

portrait-Tery-Hursh[1]Street trees are making downtown Dillon, Montana a destination, according to 20-year resident Tery Hursh.

Businesses and civic organizations in the 4,132-person town have joined with the Dillon Tree Board to plant trees and enhance the landscaping along Atlantic Street in the downtown business corridor.

City leaders see the new trees as an example of how the expertise and commitment of the Tree Board has shown the city the value of trees, while adding vibrancy and foot traffic to the downtown corridor.

figure1-Tery-Hursh[1]“I hear positive comments every week from patients about the beauty that the trees have brought to downtown,” says Tery, who works in the area.

Citizen participation helped make the transformation happen. In one weekend, more than 20 volunteers transformed that downtown street.

Funding for the trees was provided by a grant from Montana’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. Were it not for this critical support, visitors and residents would lose out on the benefits of street trees in town’s main commercial district.figure2-Tery-Hursh[1]

“The trees have brought beauty, slowed erosion and made the community safer,” Tery adds.

Check out our other Faces of Urban Forestry.